Holiday Overindulgence? Lose the Guilt to Losing the Weight!

Holiday Overindulgence

Recovering from too much yuletide sweetness? A few extra helpings to which you couldn’t help helping yourself? Here’s some good news just in time for your Holiday Overindulgence: Stop feeling guilty about eating decadent foods and you’ll gain less weight.

Researchers in New Zealand found that women who said they felt guilty after noshing on chocolate cake put on more pounds than women who reported enjoying every bite.

The researchers interviewed 300 women between the ages of 18 and 85 about their eating habits and if they were trying to lose weight. They also asked them if eating a chocolate cake made them feel guilty or happy.

Twenty seven percent admitted feeling guilty, and when the researchers observed the participants 18 months later, they discovered that the guilty group had gained substantially more weight than those who reported feeling happy. Women who feel guilty after eating “forbidden foods” tend to give up on healthy eating, the researchers concluded.

“I’m not at all surprised,” says Eileen Behan, R.D., author of For the Love of Food blog. “If you can’t handle your “trigger” foods, you feel like a failure when you eat them and abandon your diet altogether. It’s a classic response.”

You can learn to let go of the guilt — even during the holidays, says Behan. In fact, the holidays may be the ideal time because there is ample opportunity to practice. Here’s how to get started.

Identify Your Trigger Foods

Make a list of the foods you crave or find yourself overeating for your holiday overindulgence when given the chance. It might be brownies or ice cream or macaroni and cheese. Write down everything you’ve previously categorized as “forbidden.”

Take Foods Off the Forbidden List

The minute you say, “I’m never going to eat cake again,” you’re doomed to fail, says Behan. “Whenever people tell me that, I ask them to make changes they can live with forever.” Instead of categorizing food as “bad” or “good,” think of it in terms of calories, suggests Behan. For example, “cake is 300 to 600 calories a slice, which is the same as two pieces of pizza or a big turkey sandwich.” No more, no less.

Plan Ahead

Most of us can predict what will be on offer at a holiday party so before heading out, think about your favorite holiday foods then give yourself permission to eat and enjoy one of them. Pick exactly what you want and savor every bite. If feelings of guilt surface, take a deep breath and banish the feeling.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Think of every holiday party or dinner or housewarming gathering as an opportunity to practice eating food without feeling guilty. This may help you enjoy the season rather than dreading it. If you find yourself overeating, don’t beat yourself up. Just wait for the next opportunity to eat without guilt.

Be Patient

Don’t expect to normalize your trigger foods overnight. In fact, you may have to eat chocolate cake every day for a month to normalize it. How’s that for a wonderful assignment?

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