In this post, I’m going to give you four questions to ask yourself so that you don’t spend the holidays wracked with shame and guilt about eating too much.

Holidays are often the cause of emotional eating (two words: family drama). Or overeating food that isn’t allowed or available the rest of the year. Or eating with even more distractions because there is just so damned much to do. 

And then what happens in the new year? A resolution to go on a diet, exercise, and lose weight. 

Sound familiar?

Can we try something new this year – even before the holidays officially start? 

Here are the four questions you should ask yourself before and while you eat this holiday season.

Question #1: Am I biologically hungry?

Before taking a bite of anything, take a moment and ask yourself if you’re biologically hungry. Hunger cues can be lightheadedness, a grumbly tummy, lack of energy or focus, or a feeling of emptiness in the belly. Everyone is different; what does hunger feel like for you?

Question #2: If I’m not biologically hungry, why do I want to eat this?

There are different types of hunger, not just biological hunger:

  • Taste hunger – eating because something sounds or smells good. The holidays will present many opportunities for you to want to eat – perhaps it’s something you don’t normally allow yourself to have or it’s a seasonal food. 

If you’ve decided to eat for taste hunger, enjoy every morsel.

  • Practical hunger – eating ahead because you know you’ll be busy when you usually get hungry. The holiday season is nothing but one long to-do list, so it is sometimes a necessity to eat when you can since it’s not always possible to eat when you’re actually hungry.

If you’ve decided to eat for practical hunger, enjoy every morsel.

  • Emotional hunger – eating as a result of uncomfortable feelings. During this time of year, a lot of feelings could come up for you. You may have learned to take comfort in food and while there is nothing wrong with eating your feelings, I encourage you to do it with intention. Instead of automatically reaching for the food, take a moment to check in with yourself and ask how you’re feeling. Feelings are a signal of an unmet need and there are often other ways to meet those needs without defaulting to food.

If you’ve decided to eat for emotional hunger, enjoy every morsel.

  • Primal hunger – aka hanger. This occurs when the body ravenously needs energy, often because it hasn’t been fed enough. Eating during primal hunger contributes to the feeling of being out of control with eating because it’s very difficult to slow down and be present with the food when all the body cares about is getting fed. This results in overeating and often occurs in the evening.

If you are eating for primal hunger, try to slow down so that you can enjoy every morsel. 

Checking in to see what kind of hunger you’re experiencing will create that space for you to make an intentional decision for yourself. It’ll also give you an opportunity to learn more about yourself for the future. In the case of primal hunger, for example, what can you do next time so that you don’t get to this state? 

(Personally, when I’m hangry, I am horrible to be around. I get snappy and really indecisive; my blood sugar level is low and my whole body starts to sweat. I’ve learned to carry snacks with me and to give whoever I’m with a heads up that when I start acting like a terror, they should take us to the first place with food and not ask for my opinion because I will not be pleasant. To any of my friends who are reading this and have experienced me in this state – I’m sorry and thank you for still being my friend. 😅)

Question #3: Am I (still) enjoying this?

If you are not enjoying what you are putting in your mouth, stop. Honestly. Don’t eat it. It’s possible that the food isn’t something you enjoy from the jump. It’s also possible that the more you eat something, the less satisfying it becomes. And yet, there are many reasons why we continue eating: 

  • we don’t want to offend anyone by not eating their food
  • we are a card-carrying member of the Clean Plate Club (i.e. we’ve been trained to eat every single thing on our plate)
  • we’re distracted by whatever is going on around us
  • we don’t know when we’ll get this food next, so we “want to make the most of it”

It’s okay not to finish what you started. You’re still a good person. I promise.

Question #4: Am I full?

What are your signs of fullness? For me, my stomach feels pleasantly full, my eating is slower, and I’m not yet at the point when I want to undo my pants. That’s a clear sign from my body that I can stop eating.

However, there are times when the food is so good that I want to continue, despite my fullness. Then I become overly full and that’s when I actually undo my pants because my stomach gets distended and hard; I also notice that my energy becomes more and more like a sloth’s. 

During the holidays – or any time I visit my parents’ – I’m more likely to become overly full because of all the different kinds of food that aren’t available to me during the rest of the year. This is when I stop to make the conscious decision to check in with myself: am I full? If I am, do I want to continue eating? If I continue eating, am I okay with feeling the inevitable discomfort? 

It’s okay to eat past fullness, but do check in with yourself so that you can make that choice to continue (or stop) along the way. 

In short, the four questions to ask yourself this holiday season so that you’re less likely to overeat:

  1. Am I biologically hungry?
  2. If I’m not biologically hungry, why do I want to eat this?
  3. Am I enjoying this?
  4. Am I full?

Remember that at the root of every decision is self-compassion. There is no right or wrong. Each of these questions is a way to create awareness by checking in with yourself and getting off auto-pilot. If you find yourself eating in a way that triggers your negative self-talk, stop and ask yourself: what would I say to a dear friend? (Cause I’m willing to bet that you’d never talk to your friend the way you talk to yourself!)

In the meantime, let me know what you think! Will these questions be helpful for you?

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