How to Not Overeat During the Holidays

I’m at a crossroads: I’m nearing my goal weight, but it’s the holiday season. Not only is this the time of year when I traditionally strap on the proverbial feed bag for a month+, but the shortened daylight hours and extra seasonal commitments seriously soften my ability to fully exercise. Therefore, my waistline softens, as well.

The following is how I plan to deal with this holiday time crossroads. The goal is to still enjoy the holiday season. True enjoyment comes without the guilt or frustration of taking a step back on my physical goals. So I’m approaching the holidays with a plan in order to keep the eating under control… and hopefully not take a step backwards in my physical quest of bad assery.

How will I avoid overeating this holiday season?

Drink water first.

Let’s face it, there’s no better way to fill one’s stomach than with nourishing, calorie-free water. So pile in plenty of glasses, cups, or whatever before hitting the family buffet. Doing so means I reach a feeling of fullness quicker, and likely eases some digestion on the flip side.

Survey the land and prioritize.

I’m horrible at buffets–mostly because I’m not a picky eater. I like food… all of it. So I generally go through a buffet grabbing whatever’s closest. Same with party food: if it’s there for the taking, I’m generally taking.

This year, I’ll need to take a look at what’s available and prioritize what I’d like to consume at the particular meal or event. This is a practice of looking for quality over quantity. Take a moment to identify the things I really want to eat and don’t just grab whatever’s closest… then pile on the things I really want to eat as I come across them later.

Shrink the plate.

The plate underneath the dinner plate is called a “charger” and it’s generally placed out as decoration. It’s not an extra, bigger plate. When it’s time to eat, look for the smallest plate possible and fill that. Doing so will definitely help prioritize what foods I want to eat and keep me from convincing myself I have room for everything–either on my plate or in my stomach.

Keep tracking.

My dietary success thus far has been driven by energy management. My simple diet plan is to consume fewer calories than I expend. I know how many calories I consume because I track it all with an app on my phone. I do, however, have a tendency to get lazy and not track when I know I’m blowing my energy equilibrium for the day (consuming more calories than I expend).

In order to make the holidays a little more disciplined, I’ll need to keep tracking… no matter what occurs! I believe part of the success related to tracking is that I avoid eating certain things simply due to fact that I don’t want to go through the trouble of entering it into my app. This could be a great tool of dissuasion during the holidays: don’t commit the crime if you’re not willing to do the time.

Before I eat that, I gotta eat this.

Fill up on the good stuff before diving into the calorie-laden, nutrition-deficient bad stuff. Really, this all about filling as much stomach space with nutritional stuff as I can before I hit dessert time. “More salad, less pie” sounds like a good maxim.

Slow down and savor this.

Once I have a full plate, I’m not going to shovel all that food down my gullet as quickly as possible. A lot of care has gone into preparing most of these dishes. Take some time to appreciate the flavors of the season. Take some smaller bites. Enjoy the experience of sharing space, time, and food with other people.

Physiologically, eating more slowly allows the message of fullness to get from my stomach to my brain. So I’m far less likely to over-stuff myself by eating slowly.

Remember: there are other ways of enjoying this besides the food.

Food isn’t the point of this season. Feelings of gratitude, community, and love… those are the point. Giving and sharing food are a way of encountering those feelings, but they are not the only way. There are other gifts to give besides food. There is football to watch. There spiritual practices to observe that don’t involve food. This is a great time of year to volunteer for something… and doing that with others inspires all the previously mentioned feelings.

The point: don’t make it all about food. It’s not.

Extend some self grace.

When I fail and overeat, I’m going to love myself enough to not give up and try again. One failure does make me a failure. And I can give up on the notion of being perfect. I just need to be better. So I’m not trying to be perfect, I’m merely trying to be better than before.

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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