How to Exercise Self-Control at Any Holiday Feast

You used to wait for this all year long: Holiday feasting. You’d stay off the naughty list all year long so you wouldn’t have to feel guilty about gorging yourself with turkey, ham, and pie twice in a one month span. But, lately, you just can’t put away the trimmings and trappings like you did in years past—at least not without feeling stuffed like the Thanksgiving turkey.

Now you’re thinking it might be time to consider some alternatives to your usual eat-first-ask-questions-later tactics. And maybe (just maybe) these tips about self-control will help you leave the Christmas feast with a little dignity for once in your life.

Don’t Skip Meals


As part of your pre-gauntlet game plan, you might have skipped a meal thinking you were leaving more space for the feast. This is both unhealthy and wrong. If you wait until the evening to eat, you’re likely to gorge yourself on everything in sight, filling yourself past capacity as you inhale feast foods. A light breakfast (protein shake) and lunch (salad) will put you in a much better place to avoid overeating.

Healthy Appetizers


Many holiday events are “grazing” occasions where snacks and appetizers are left out for people to pick on all day. Do yourself a favor and avoid heavier things like cheese and dips, especially since you’ll get plenty of rich and savory stuff once you get to the dinner table. Instead, stick to healthier treats like fruits and veggies. Also, make yourself a small plate instead of hovering (and Hoovering) over the dishes.

Portion Control


Speaking of making your plate, portion control can also be an effective and easy way to avoid eating too much in one sitting. While diehards would want to use measuring cups, you can get by with a simple visualization: just imagine your plate as a pie chart. Put the appropriate amount of proteins, grains, and veggies that you want (usually 25/25/50% if you’re trying to be strict). But it is a holiday, so you can slide those numbers around—just so long as you limit yourself to one plate.

Slow Your Roll(s)


As mentioned above, eating fast is a very real pitfall of the holiday feast-er. Since it takes time for your stomach to send the message that it’s full (roughly half an hour), you can cram more food than you want or need if you’re going at it like a ravenous wolf. One simple thing you can do to avoid over-doing it is chatting a lot during your meal. Actively engaging in conversations allows you enjoy your family’s company, savor your food, and avoid overeating all at once. Or it can be the only opportunity you’ll have to awkwardly come out in front of your entire family and then say, “Pass the yams?”

Watch the Sauce


If you’re watching your calories, then you know that boozing can add up quickly. In addition to adding to your calorie bottom line, alcohol tends to sit heavier than water, meaning you’ll get that lethargic tummy feeling you’re probably trying to avoid. In worse cases, you’re inhibitions might go completely out the window, along with your diet.

The Leftover Mentality


Again, the game plan is just plain flawed: we assume we have to eat as much as we can in this one sitting, or else we’re just a non-festive/un-thankful scrooge. But we leave out that the best part of holidays like Thanksgiving is the week of leftovers that we’ll get to enjoy after the initial meal. Just bring some tupperware and enjoy an average sized dinner.

Just Desserts


No monster would tell you to skip dessert. But there are a couple of ways to avoid over-desserting after you over-eat. If you know what your favorite dessert is, just limit yourself to a single slice and stick to it. If you want to taste them all, make yourself some sliver-sized samples instead of having a full slice of each. Also, think about leaving pies in the kitchen instead of on the table; having them in a separate room makes it more of a conscious decision and less of an easy indulgence.

By Zack Hillman

Zack Hillman considers Liz Lemon to be his spirit animal, since he also waits until they throw out yesterday's donuts. After graduting with a creative writing degree, he began writing professionally, sometimes for money. He is composed of anywhere between 0-35% chili cheese fries, depending on the day.

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