We are in the home stretch of Decadent December. But with the week of Christmas and New Years looming ahead of us, how do we make it through without eating ourselves sick?
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A recent Dartmouth neuroimaging study suggests chronic dieters overeat when the regions of their brain that balance impulsive behavior and self-control become disrupted, decreasing their capacity to resist temptation.
In plain English, that means that the more stressed out you are, the more you are likely to eat. As Professor Todd Heatherton, the study’s senior author says, “After a hard day at work, that piece of chocolate cake or that martini looks even better.”
Perhaps then the key to not overeating is not to simply avoid cake, but to prepare yourself for temptation. Here are some tips from a variety of ‘food experts’ as to how to get yourself in the right frame of mind for whooping it up without regretting it the next day.
1. Prep for the party
Professor Todd Heatherton says preparing yourself for the party might help you to eat less when you get there.
“People should avoid being depleted before they go to the parties,” writes Heatherton. “This might mean trying to replenish their self-control by relaxing for a while or taking a stroll before the party. At the least, they should be aware that when they are already feeling worn out or fatigued, they are vulnerable to being overly influenced by temptations.”
2. Eat breakfast
You’ve likely heard before how important it is to eat breakfast. But how will that stop you from gorging yourself later in the day?
Surinder Phull of Vitality TV explains: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and eating breakfast leads to the production of the hormone ghrelin which naturally suppresses our appetite, meaning you won’t need that appetiser later in the day, or be tempted to go for that second helping. The holiday season is a time to enjoy, and you can still enjoy yourself but use a smaller plate with smaller portions. And DON’T DO GUILT which ultimately leads to comfort eating to make yourself feel better!”
3. Change what you do with your feet
Dr David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center says moving between meals is more important than what you put in your mouth. “Encourage exercise in between all of the holiday festivities,” says Katz. “If you really want to burn more calories this holiday season, you will get far more out of changing what you do with your feet than by changing what’s at the end of your fork.
4. Make sure you eat dessert!
Knowing that you can eat one – and only one – dessert might help you exert more control at the buffet, explains Sarah Nelson, Executive Director of 18 Reasons in San Francisco.
“When you’re feeling overwhelmed at the dessert table, take a deep breath and survey the scene: you know there’s one great dessert in the bunch that you don’t want to miss out on, so make sure to look at all your options before grabbing the first cookie in front of you,” says Nelson. “Once you’ve picked what you really want, it’s easier to turn down the extra nibbles. Pausing before diving in can help you see the big picture: that you don’t REALLY want all those desserts!”