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Verified by Psychology Today

Are You Concerned About Holiday Eating?

Would you take a moment to think about it?

Key points

  • Americans consume an average of 4500 calories and 220 grams of fat on Thanksgiving.
  • Overeating is not the same as binge eating.
  • Pausing before the next bite may help prevent overeating.

Did you eat too much on Thanksgiving? When you were offered seconds of stuffing or pumpkin pie, or anything else, did you accept only to regret it later? Did you leave the table feeling stuffed? Now that we’re entering the holiday season, you might be concerned about gaining weight with upcoming holiday parties and family get-togethers. Have you ever wondered whether you might be a binge eater?

If you have any of these concerns, you’re in good company. It’s estimated that between the main meal and snacking, Americans consume an average of 4500 calories and 220 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day. Certainly, that’s more than you need, and consuming that much could contribute to weight gain, though it’s not likely to qualify as a binge.

The DSM-5 defines binge eating as having two characteristics:

  1. Eating in a discrete period of time an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
  2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode.

Regardless of how much you ate, it’s not likely that your eating met the second criterion for a binge. When offered food, you make the decision to eat it. Maybe it wasn’t a good decision. Maybe you’re regretting your choice now, but it was a deliberate decision. A binge is a lack of control. A binge doesn’t involve a decision. It’s an automatic response, a feeling of being out of control.

So, if you’re eating was a decision rather than an automatic binge response, how could you make a better decision the next time? With Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, and Super Bowl parties, you’ll experience plenty of temptation. When temptation strikes, the best first step is to pause for a few seconds. Although it may seem unnatural, it shouldn’t be too difficult – no one is going to take the food away. It will still be there after the pause!

Pausing gives you the opportunity in the moment to consider the pros and cons of eating the food. Are you hungry? If so, go ahead and eat the food. If you’re not hungry, would eating it provide more enjoyment? Probably not. The most pleasure of eating usually comes from the first few bites. Would eating more now give you a greater sense of satisfaction, or would there be more satisfaction knowing that you exercised control and resisted temptation?

Pausing and considering your choices isn’t guaranteed to prevent overeating, but it’s excellent food for thought!

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