How to stop yourself from binge eating over the holidays involves a lot of pre-party work. I used to think that it involved having more strict willpower and self control… and ultimately, that I was terrible at those things because I would always end up overeating and having at least one binge during the holidays. But holidays and social parties or dinners in general are different for me now and I will share how I’m able to enjoy them without binge eating or food anxiety!
Do you find yourself doing any of these things before functions, like your family Christmas party?
- Crazy dieting or cleansing a week or two before the party so that you will look ‘thinner’ when you see friends or family.
- Having anxiety about how you look and feeling like people will be judging you based on your appearance.
- Having anxiety about the amount and/or types of foods that will be at the social event.
- Having anxiety in general because of the amount of people that will be there and/or having to make conversations.
- Pep talking to yourself into how you won’t eat at all, or how you won’t eat certain foods.
- Convincing yourself that you will start the ‘new diet’ or healthy eating regime after the holidays and end up eating everything in sight. (AKA ‘the last supper’ mindset)
- Eating minimal amounts of food the day of the party or event because you fear what you might eat later.
- Stressing about not being able to control yourself around certain foods.
Going through all the above (and more) food related rituals at Christmas and during other holidays became the norm for me. I didn’t even realize that I was stuck in these mindsets and how much of the holidays I was actually missing out on because I was wasting all my energy worrying.
I’m going to share with you my personal survival guide for the holiday season on how to stop yourself from bing eating. Make these tools your own and use them as needed. Please be open to trying all the tools, especially the ones you wouldn’t normally find yourself drawn towards. If you’re on this website, what you’ve been doing so far most likely isn’t working and might be causing more stress, binge eating and weight gain in your life. So open your mind and heart to doing things a little differently this holiday season!!!
**** Please Note **** This article will often refer to “you” and what “you” might be doing with food, how you’re feeling or your relationship with your body. I want you to know that none of this is in judgement, I am simply explaining what you might be doing or experiencing because I’ve been through all of it (and because you might not even realize it’s happening!).
How to Stop Yourself from Binge Eating
(Especially during the holidays or at social events)
1. Don’t Restrict Your Food Intake
Dieting and restriction are most likely what have caused you to have an issue with your weight and binge eating in the first place. Diets don’t work for anyone; 95% of diets fail, but that’s a whole other article (thankfully I already wrote it! – click here).
Restriction and dieting cause your body to crave food and nutrients. If you aren’t fuelling your body with satisfying and healthful foods (that you like and taste good), it can send you into an uncontrollable binge. This happens especially when you’re faced with palatable foods (like the ones you might find at Christmas). And when you eat low nutrient foods, your body is so starved for nutrients it will urge you to keep eating and eating until it gets them.
You starve your body all day or week because you’re going to eat lots of yummy food at your holiday party, but then the foods you eat there are still starving your body of actual nutrients it needs too (things like chips). Thus, your body sends signals that you need food and the cravings send you into a binge. Ultimately, you end up eating more than you would have if you didn’t restrict your food intake. (NOTE: It’s totally okay and normal to eat chips at a party!).
You might also create a ‘last supper’ mentality and eat to the point of feeling sick because you convince yourself you’ll go on a diet after the holidays. You tell yourself that after the holidays you won’t ever be able to enjoy the delicious foods you love and get to enjoy at parties (so you eat as much as you possibly can!).
Tips for getting past this:
You will end up eating more and creating a binge cycle by depriving yourself before the holidays. Remember that everyone who eats like a normal person enjoys indulgences. The reason they can stop themselves from binging like crazy on food at parties is because they haven’t restricted themselves all day or week long.
If I know there will be snacks at a party, I still eat normal meals throughout the day. I allow myself to enjoy the snacks and drinks at the party too! When I used to restrict myself before a party, I would end up eating 3x the amount I do now. I would barely eat anything, then go to the party, eat a bunch of food, drink a lot, feel guilty and then binge on things sneakily when people weren’t paying attention, or go home and binge on more food after the party.
Instead of focusing on avoiding certain foods at a party or taking foods out of your diet, concentrate on healthful foods you can add into your diet over the holidays.
2. Allow Yourself to Eat Without Guilt
Now you understand why depriving yourself before an event can be harmful, but here’s why depriving yourself at the event can also cause binge eating.
When you go to a party with preconceived notions about what foods are ‘bad’ or ‘good’ and what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ eat, you’re creating a very unhealthy relationship with food. (I know this because I experienced it for 20 years).
Everyone indulges. If you’re not allowing yourself to enjoy the snacks, chocolate, carbs and cheesy delicious foods that you’re eating because you have a preconceived notions about them, it’s going to create guilt and stress in your body (which isn’t good for your health and can actually create weight gain!).
Guilt can not only be a huge motivator for binge eating, but it also takes the enjoyment out of eating foods you enjoy. This ultimately leaves you feeling unsatisfied (and you might look for satisfaction elsewhere – possibly in more food). If you hold onto that guilt, it can not only manifest itself into binge eating, but it can stop you from moving forward.
Guilt used to send me into days, even weeks of binge eating. One little taste of something I considered to be a ‘bad’ food, that I ‘shouldn’t’ eat, and I would feel immense guilt and make the act of eating a slice of cheese mean I was a bad person. I would give up on trying to care for myself and body because I believed that I was ‘wrong’ for eating something in my ‘bad’ foods list. Thankfully I am free from this mindset now!
Tips for getting past this:
Allow yourself to indulge and enjoy it without guilt. Shift your focus on bad/good food relationships. Instead of making things so black and white, enjoy the foods you love over the holidays and work on adding in some nourishing, healthful foods to your plate of chocolate or chips. Change your focus to positive action, rather than trying to force yourself to stay away from certain foods.
3. Remember That People Love You
I’m going to take a wild guess, and assume that the people you will be spending Christmas or other holidays with really enjoy your company. And I’m sure there are people you get to spend time with over the holidays that you really love being around too!
I didn’t even realize how much happiness and joy my body image took away from the holidays until I started recovery. I would spend weeks being nervous about people noticing that I gained 10 pounds. And even when I had lost weight before the holidays, it wasn’t good enough and I still had anxiety about how I looked before parties.
Tips for getting past this:
Remember that people love you for who you are, not what your body looks like. Focus on the time you get to spend with these people rather than if they are thinking about the 10, 20 or 30 pounds you’ve gained or lost.
An exercise that has helped me, is asking a few close friends to list three things they love about me. Most of my friends told me how wonderful my smile was and how I always made everyone laugh. Before the holidays, when I would get into my head about my body image, I would focus on smiling more and having fun rather than what my butt looked like!
4. Shift Your Focus About the Holidays
It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the holidays being all about food and drinking, since most parties revolve around those things. This can leave you focusing or stressing about all the topics I discussed above: what to eat, what not to eat, what your body looks like, what to eat before you go to a party, feeling guilty about eating and/or stressed about not eating etc.
Tips for getting past this:
Similar to focusing on spending time with people you love instead of your body, a great tool I still use before holidays is to think of all the things parties or social events involve that have nothing to do with food. For example, I will play with my nieces at Christmas, help with tidying up the kitchen at a party, think about topics I want to catch up on with people and positive things I can share about my year.
5. Get Rid of Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and stress before parties isn’t always food and body related. I used to get a bit overwhelmed around groups of people… I would hide it well (possibly drink it away). But my anxiety about parties was always fairly strong and would cause a desire to drink a lot and binge eat for comfort and protection. These anxious feelings usually came before the actual event. When I got a party I would feel better, but my body was still holding onto that anxiety that was building up all day or week.
Even if you don’t have any sort of social anxiety like this, the holidays can be stressful in general. Whenever you make something (like a party) negative in your mind, you’re going to try and comfort yourself; find satisfaction somewhere else. If you’re stressed that the party is going to run too late or you don’t want to see people and other negative thoughts, you might be more inclined to reach for food or alcohol to find some sort of enjoyment.
Tips for getting past this:
*Firstly, know that eating palatable foods and having a few drinks for comfort or relaxation is normal. It’s when stress or anxiety send you into a downward spiral of binge eating that it becomes unhealthy!*
Secondly, visualization is probably my most used tool throughout my recovery process. I encourage you to be open minded and give it a try! When I feel anxious about a party, I visualize myself getting there and being super happy, hugging people, laughing and enjoying myself. I don’t need to think of specifics about what will or won’t happen at the party. All I need to do is tell my brain it’s going to be a fun, enjoyable time and I do this through visualizing it.
This is a tool that can be applied to deal with many of the other aspects discussed in this article. I’ve use visualizations anytime I’ve been anxious about my appearance and it greatly shifts my happiness levels. I visualize myself excited to see old friends and talk to them instead of scared that they will judge me because I gained 10 pounds.
I also use this visualization tool when I’m grumpy or unmotivated about doing something. For example, I was super tired when I got to yoga a few days ago. I was thinking “Why am I here? This is going to suck! I’m so tired”. Instead of staying stuck in my grumpiness, while I waited for class to start I visualized myself moving my body through the class and feeling amazing. I also visualized how great I would feel at the end of the class!
I hope that these tools help you also stop yourself from binge eating over the holidays. Last word of advice is that if you overeat, practice forgiveness. You can even use it as a learning experience and work on letting go of guilt. Enjoy your holidays! XO