Managing Your Diet during the Holidays

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Dealing with your extended family, some of whom you love, some of whom you have contentious relationships with, coupled with the endless food fest that begins around Halloween time and extends through the first of the year, can cause a compulsive eater to gain a significant amount of weight in just those 8 weeks.  Some of the emotions you deal with can include: depression, disappointment, loneliness, unfulfilled expectations, stress and elevated emotions in general.  Since compulsive eaters often use food to deal with emotions, they can quickly turn to easily accessible holiday treats like chocolate candies, cookies, and nuts, all common holiday gifts.  The worst part is that come the New Year, you are left often filled with guilt, humiliation and shame because you see the evidence of your out of control emotions and eating.  What's a person to do?

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    First and foremost you have to acknowledge the struggle that you have.  You then need to find a balance between setting certain dietary management tools in place and not being too rigid and unyielding.  Using shopping lists, giving away food gifts, creating menu plans ahead of time, always bringing a healthy dish to a party you're invited to, keeping daily exercise in place, getting enough sleep and using a support system are some of the techniques that can help you to manage the holidays without gaining too much weight from compulsive eating.  The next tip is to turn to healthier recipes and treats that taste really good but that do allow you and your guests to be somewhat mindful of the impact of food on health.  Let's also not forget that a single very high calorie, high fat meal can put incredible stress on your digestive system and your heart.  Though we mostly talk about the cumulative impact of lots of over-eating, consider the fact that a single meal can cause enormous stress and inflammation to your body.  Inflammation is now considered a cornerstone of disease. 


    So here are some "swap outs" and ideas for your holiday meals:


    • Stuff the turkey with citrus like oranges, lemons and limes rather than stuffing
    • Create a salad with a variety of colored vegetables and add mandarin oranges and a balsamic dressing for taste
    • Offer a healthy vegetarian soup with root vegetables as a first or second course to help fill people up
    • Challenge yourself to use vegetables or fruit in every dish
    • Explore grains you've never used before like cous cous for a whole grain side dish
    • Swap out high fat whole milk or cream ingredients with evaporated skim milk and blended silken tofu
    • Create a centerpiece that is an edible dessert bouquet filled with melon balls and pineapple carved flowers and dark chocolate dipped berries and apple slices.
    • Another fruit dessert is a yogurt parfait filled with fruit, dark chocolate bits (and optional nuts) topped with a fat free whipped topping.
    • Create healthier dips like hummus and bean dip or salsa and display with cut up vegetables rather than chips.


  • Remember that keeping leftovers around may not be a good idea for a compulsive eater.  Even though these recipes are healthier, extra calories can still accumulate when you snack emotionally.  Create little give-away food packages after the meal for your guests.  Remember that much of the joy of the holiday season should be the social aspect and not just the food frenzy that often occurs.  The spirit of the holiday season is about sharing good times and good memories with those we love.

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    If you have a holiday health tip, please share with the community!!


Published On: November 16, 2010