Holiday Eating: Portion Control or Pig-Out

Christina Lasich, MD Health Pro November 14, 2012
  • Your mouth is already watering just thinking about the holiday turkey, the pumpkin pies, the candied yams, the stuffing, the gravy, the Christmas cookies and the eggnog. Before you dig in and start shoveling, think about what you're about to do.

     

    Think about the pounds that you have already shed this year. Think about your resolution to lose weight next year. Think about your aching knees, your aching back and your closet full of clothes that are just too tight. Now that I’ve captured your attention, think about portion control.

     

    How do you control your impulsive eating? How do you indulge without gorging? How can you satisfy your need to experience all the tastes that the Holiday season brings without dishonoring your commitment to your health?

     

    Try eating mindfully. Take that spoonful of pumpkin pie into your mouth and savor. Don’t talk. Don’t read. Don’t do anything accept engage fully with all the senses that are experiencing that one bite of pumpkin pie. Now, put the spoon down. Continue to savor and let your entire brain wrap around the satisfaction of one bite. Many books and articles have been written about mindful eating because researchers know that it is a key component to treating obesity.1,2 Eating can become a Zen-like experience that awakens your satisfaction and stops the mindless shoveling.

     

    Try higher quality ingredients. High quality usually means higher flavor per bite. Take cheese for example. Spending a little more on cheese can mean the difference between an orange-colored, flavorless blob and a wedge of something that has an intensity of flavor that you did not know existed in your world of Velveeta cheese. When you have a small piece of something that tastes really good, you’ll be surprised how satisfied you become. Chocolate is another great example of how higher quality equates to more flavor. With more flavor in your ingredients, you can be more satisfied with less.

     

    Try drinking more water. If you’re hungry, drink a full glass of water. If you’re going to a holiday party, drink a full glass of water before you arrive. Thirst and hunger walk hand in hand in the brain. And sometimes these signals from the brain get smudged together. Besides, a little water fills an empty stomach, leaving less room for that second glass of eggnog.

     

    Try visual serving size cues. What does a 3oz piece of meat look like? What does a cup of eggnog look like? Measure these out. If you notice, 3 oz of meat is approximately the size of your palm (no fingers). A cup is approximately the size of your fist. Use these visual cues to help you judge how much you are eating. Don’t judge by the size of the plate because the plate you’re using is probably much too big.

     

    Portion control is getting much harder to do in this super-sized world, especially when you sit down to a delicious Holiday meal. If you stay in control of your portions, then you can satisfy your desires without experiencing the guilt from gluttony.

    1. Complement Ther Med. 2010 Dec;18(6):260-4
    2. Online article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/dining/mindful-eating-as-food-for-thought.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 
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