NUTRITION HOTLINE: Holiday Eating
Q: What suggestions do you have for managing holiday eating?
A: The period between October and January is stressful for most people with eating disorders. Starting with Halloween and ending with Super Bowl Sunday, everyone is faced with an unusual number of high risk eating situations. Thanksgiving seems to be the biggest hurdle for many of my clients. I recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your treatment team, but I do have some suggestions. Begin by not restricting the day before or the day of the holiday. Many people restrict with the idea that it will allow them to eat as much as they want and not gain weight. It takes many days of overeating before you actually gain body fat, and restricting will set you up to binge. Think of all the normal eaters you know who overeat on Thanksgiving, do not gain weight, and do not compensate by restricting, overexercising, or purging.
The day of the holiday, eat normally; don’t fast or restrict before the meal. During the holiday meal itself, instead of taking a little bit of everything to be polite, try taking normal portions of the foods you really enjoy. I find this strategy works well to increase satiety and satisfaction and reduce bingeing later. For example, instead of eating a roll (which you can have any day of the year), try having a larger portion of your favorite carbohydrate such as stuffing or yams. Make sure to choose enough protein (at least 3 ounces) to help regulate your blood sugar and energy level.
It is also a good idea to have a support person you can talk to or phone if purging is an issue for you. After a big meal at your home, I suggest you keep one or two portions of trigger foods for leftovers and give the rest away to your guests. Also, try going for a walk or drinking a carbonated beverage to help promote gastric emptying, and find a distracting activity until the uncomfortable feeling passes.
These guidelines work well for all holiday meals.
If you are in early recovery, ask your
dietician for help with incorporatin
holiday foods into your meal plan.
For holiday parties, try eating an hour before you go so you are not too hungry when you arrive. Then try the same strategy as above—eat normal portions of your favorite foods. Be careful with alcohol consumption, as it tends to disinhibit eating and purging for many people. Avoid standing next to the buffet table as it can encourage mindless eating. Seek out a person you enjoy talking to and try to make conversation the focus of the party.
Holidays are a stressful time for everyone, but with pre-planning the stress from meals and parties can be kept to a minimum. If you are in early recovery, ask your dietitian for help with incorporating holiday foods into your meal plan. Also try to plan extra stress-reducing activities during the holiday period, so food does not become your primary coping mechanism.
Last of all, resist the temptation to weigh yourself after a holiday meal or party. Your body will probably retain extra water from the salt and/or sugar in the holiday food, resulting in a fluid shift. Once you go back to your regular eating pattern, your body will naturally eliminate the extra water.
By Diane Keddy, MS, RD
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Fall 2007 Volume 5, Number 4
©2007 Gürze Books
About the Author
Diane Keddy, MS, RD, is a registered dietician with a private practice in Newport Beach, CA.