Secrets To Avoid Overeating During The Holidays
Healthy Eating "in the Wild",  Meals & Planning

Secrets To Avoid Overeating During the Holidays

Uuuuggghh … that’s the collective sound/sigh I make after eating too much at Thanksgiving. As much as I love eating, I try to avoid overeating in the painful sort of way.

Let’s be clear: It’s totally fine to eat too much sometimes. In fact, it’s a lot of fun to feast with friends and family! But, have you ever eaten so much that you’re miserable afterwards? I have, and I remember the stomach ache, feeling overfull (like I’m 9 months pregnant and all my food is pushed up into my ribcage), and just surviving it.

Why did I have that 3rd piece of pie?!

That’s no way to spend the holiday!

Here are some strategies that have (sometimes) worked for me.

Prevent Overeating By Eating Before a Holiday Meal

I know a lot of people (myself included) who think that if they just don’t eat breakfast, lunch, or snacks the day of a big dinner, then they’ll “save up” some calories that they can “cash in” at dinnertime. In my experience, what actually happens is that I’m so ravenous by the time I eat the big meal that I more than make up for the food that I skipped during the day. Not only that, my poor stomach is so overfull that I end up being miserable before (starving) and after (too full) the meal.

Drink More Water Than Alcohol To Avoid Overeating

There are two main (and several other) reasons to keep your alcohol intake in check.

First, consuming alcohol and overeating are correlated. There are likely two mechanisms at work. You’re likely aware that drinking lowers inhibitions, causing you to make choices you otherwise wouldn’t. What’s more, recent research has indicated that alcohol intoxication increases appetite and promotes binge-eating by upping activity in areas of the brain that control reward and regulate eating behaviors.

Second, drinking too much leads to hangovers, and hangovers are horrible. That is all.

Just Say NO To Foods You Don’t Like

You are a grown-a** adult and are in no way obligated to eat Grandma’s Frog Eye salad or the aluminum can-shaped cranberry “sauce”. You have the right to save your appetite for foods you love, and pass on everything else. If you’ve been lying to people by pretending to enjoy foods that you hate, now is the time to come clean and say something like, “I’m going to pass on the marshmallowed yams this year.”

Save Some For Tomorrow – Plan On Having Leftovers Instead of Overeating

Every friends-and-family get-together with a big meal involves a lot of leftovers. Most of the time, the hosts and guests are trying to get others to take the leftovers. So, if you’re already full, volunteer to take home some extra mashed potatoes and pie.

Avoid Overeating By Doing Non-Food Activities

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a ping-pong table in their basement or garage. It was a gathering place, other than the dinner table, for us all to have fun and move around together. My husband’s family has a tradition of playing a game of football in the yard after dinner. These are two examples – although there are many – of things to do with family and friends that are away from the table and bring great joy and fun.

Other ideas that have worked for us: playing cards or board games, going for a walk, playing hide-and-seek (not just for kids), working on a puzzle. So many!

Did You Eat Too Much? Give Yourself Some Grace

Sometimes, in spite of my best intentions, I go overboard with the stuffing (pun), turkey, pie, chocolate, etc. But, you know what? Overeating every once in a while, while uncomfortable, will probably not kill (or even hurt) us. I’m so very thankful for the abundance of blessings we (my loved ones and I) enjoy – and sometimes, over-enjoy.


The Surprising Connection between Binge-Drinking and Binge-Eating


  • Ryan

    From Sis’s Restaurant Newport KY today I had steak and fried eggs with home fries for breakfast. On a scale of 1-10 how unhealthy of a meal was that? My Bend OR buddy had a salad…

    • Brook Hagen

      Thanks for that excellent question Ryan! It sounds like you had a hearty breakfast with lots of satisfying protein and fat. It might be a little high in saturated fat to rank at 7 or higher, but it’s a solid choice for a working man such as yourself. 🧰 It sounds like your friend from Bend is undereating … that could lead to hangriness or binging later in the day. 😬

  • Monica

    This is great advice! I will remember to drink lots of water and eat normally for breakfast and lunch. I’m hoping to get the family out for a walk, or to look at some neighbors christmas lights afterward. Happy Thanksgiving Brook!

    • Brook Hagen

      Well, I ended up in a solid food coma and managed to avoid major GI distress, so that’s a win!
      Hope you had a successful feasting experience and a wonderful Thanksgiving day! ☺️