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In my last post, I talked about how to prevent holiday (or anytime) overeating. Now let's talk about what to do when you overeat anyway (notice I said when not if ; no perfection necessary!)

Am I Full?  

Some questions you might want to ask yourself to help you determine how full you are:  

•  How does my stomach feel? Can I feel the food? Is there any discomfort or pain? Does my stomach full, stretched, full or bloated?  

•  How does my body feel? Do I feel comfortable and content? Do my clothes feel tight? Is there any nausea or heart burn? Do I feel short of breath?

•  How is my energy level? Do I feel energetic and ready for the next activity? Or am I sleepy, sluggish, tired or lethargic?  

•  What do I feel like doing now?

If you've overeaten, sit quietly for a few moments and become completely aware of how you feel. Don't beat yourself up; just focus on the sensations so you'll remember them the next time you're tempted to overeat. You may be less likely to repeat the mistake if you think through the consequences first.

Don't Miss the Lesson  

When you realize you've eaten too much, ask yourself, "Why did it happen?"  and "What could I do differently next time?" Turn your mistake into a learning experience.

There are a lot of reasons people eat past the point of satisfaction: habits, learned behaviors, past dieting, and mindless eating. For example:  

"It was a special occasion." You're more likely to overeat if you only give yourself permission to eat enjoyable foods on special occasions. You don’t need an excuse to have a wonderful meal—so why use a special occasion as a reason to overeat? Ask yourself, "If this occasion is so special, why would I want to eat until I feel miserable?"

Here are some of the other holiday triggers you'll learn how to handle in chapter 7 of Am I Hungry?

I felt obligated.
It tasted good so I just kept eating.
I wanted to taste everything.
I was afraid I wouldn’t get that food again.
I saved the best for last.
I ate food I didn’t enjoy.
I wasn’t paying attention as I ate.
I ate too fast.
I mindlessly picked at the leftovers.
I had too much on my plate.
I was keeping up with someone else.
I wanted to get my money’s worth.
I hate to let food go to waste.  

I Ate Too Much! Now What?  

Even people who eat instinctively sometimes overeat. However, although they may feel regretful and uncomfortable, they don't typically feel guilty. They don't think, "Well, I've already blown it; I might as well keep eating then start my diet tomorrow." Instead, they just listen to their body and return to eating instinctively by allowing hunger to drive their next cycle. By listening to your body's wisdom, you can compensate for occasional overeating.

After you overeat, wait and see when you get hungry again. Rather than continuing to eat out of guilt or by the clock, listen to your body. It probably won't need food as soon so you may not be hungry for your usual snack or even your next meal.  

When you get hungry again, ask yourself, “What do I want?” and “What do I need?” Don't punish yourself or try to compensate for overeating by restricting yourself. If you try to make yourself eat foods you don't really want, you'll feel deprived and fuel your eat-repent-repeat cycle. Trust and respect what your body tells you because it's likely that it will naturally seek balance, variety and moderation. You might notice that you're hungry for something small or something light—maybe a bowl of soup or cereal, a piece of fruit or a salad.  

Lastly, don't use exercise to punish yourself for overeating; instead be active all the time and use the fuel you consume to live a full and satisfying life.

Eat Mindfully. Live Vibrantly!

Michelle May, M.D.


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