5 Reasons we overeat during the Holidays

psych effects post

Christmas is approaching with all the temptations it brings. Here are five reasons it’s so easy to overeat during the Holidays and what you can do about them:

1. The Pendulum Effect

Once December comes around, we give ourselves permission to eat the foods we consider off limit the rest of the year, promising to banish these foods or diet again in January.

While this may seem like a fair choice, every extreme act of restriction is followed by an equally extreme act of bingeing. Our relationship to food is like a pendulum: We can hold on to one extreme of the pendulum through willpower, but at some point we no longer have the strength and let go.

A better way: Cultivate a relationship to food that allows you to stay at the center of the pendulum, even if this means allowing yourself the forbidden foods more often throughout the year. When we use all our willpower to NOT eat something, we simply make it more attractive. We can’t stop thinking about it and spend a lot of energy trying to stay in control. By allowing ourselves to eat it in moderation, so called ‘off limit’ foods actually lose their power over us.

2. The ‘What-the-Hell’ Effect 

Does this sound familiar? “I already had one cookie – technically I am no longer gluten-free/sugar-free/healthy/on a diet today. What-the-hell, I might as well have another…and another…and another.”

A better way: It’s OK. You can have your cookie and stop there. Remember that eating healthy at least 80% of the time is as perfect as you need to be. Realize that life is not all or nothing and that there is no point in being black or white in your approach to food.

3. The ‘I-Had-No-Choice’ Effect

You’re at your aunt’s house and she is insisting you have just one more piece of pie. Or you’re at work and your colleague brought some leftover cake. Surely it’s impolite to refuse?

A better way: We seem to think that if something is offered to us or just sitting there, demanding our attention, it doesn’t count if we eat it, because we had no choice. Here’s the deal though. We always have the choice. And we are the only person responsible for our health. So next time you are faced with temptation, tell yourself you can have it if you REALLY want – but do you actually NEED it in that moment? This question will help you make a conscious choice instead of merely reacting to whatever is there.

4. The ‘So.Much.Choice.’ Effect

It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to eat at a buffet or a table filled with so much variety – so we overload our plates with large quantities of everything there is, afraid we may miss out if we don’t.

 A better way: Instead of focusing on the quantity of food, focus more on savoring the food. Take time to chew every bite. Put your fork down between bites and take your time eating. You’ll be surprised at how you actually need less food because you will be truly tasting the food and enjoying it rather than just trying to get as much of it in you as possible.

5. The Treat Effect

The Holidays come around once a year, and so do certain treats. So we figure “I can only have panettone during this period. So I have to eat as much of it while I can to really take advantage of it!”

A better way: Make a commitment to upgrade on quality. For example, if you love the Italian Christmas specialty, panettone, only eat panettone that is the best quality you can find and afford, rather than pouncing on any panettone that crosses your path. Or you can try making healthier versions of your special treat.

I would love to hear from you, which effect can you relate to most? How do you plan on staying sane this holiday season? 


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One Comment

  • Amanda on Dec 17, 2013 Reply

    Interesting to get some background on why I find it so hard to stay on track during this season – thanks!

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