Now that it’s officially the holiday season, we need to have a little talk about eating.

The holidays are full of delicious food, dinners with family (some more stressful than others), and high emotions. All of this can lead to overeating. Overeating can lead to guilt, shame, and an attempt to compensate for the food we ate. 

Just as bad, we all know that the flood of diet ads on our social feeds is just around the corner, ready to guilt you into buying into what they’re selling.

We’re all going to eat beyond fullness, at this time of year and all year round. So what’s the deal? Do you have to jump on a cleanse afterwards and slog through hours of cardio to ‘make up’ for overeating? 


Here’s what to do.

Accept that overeating is part of the human experience, and move on.

We’ve been conditioned to believe certain things:

  1. Overeating is horrible
  2. Enjoying food is shameful
  3. Being thin ‘tastes better’ than anything you put into your mouth

All of this is garbage, of course. So if you believe any of it, please – listen up.

Occasionally eating beyond the point of fullness is completely normal. If you do it daily or very often, this may be a red flag that you’re coping with emotion by eating. If this is happening, you need more tools in your coping toolbox – and a licensed therapist can help.

But overeating because you’re with family, you’re faced with your favorite foods that you don’t get more than a couple times a year…who cares? Enjoy, and don’t stress, please. Nothing bad is going to happen if you eat what you love. In fact, you should – isn’t that what life is about?

Do you really think anyone ever lay on their deathbed and thought about how happy they were that they didn’t eat their mom’s pie at Thanksgiving? Or felt virtuous that they ate salad when everyone was eating a beautiful holiday meal?

As an aside, especially around the holidays, food can be such a loaded topic. It can also be a source of major anxiety for those people who have eating issues. Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others. Meaning, don’t frigging comment on other peoples’ weight or what they’re eating. Keep your eyes on your own plate, and your body remarks to yourself. 

(Here’s why you should never compliment someone on their weight loss)

Life is meant to be enjoyed. None of us knows what the future has in store, and I want you to live your best life NOW. That means truly enjoying time with family and friends, eating your mom’s pecan pie that you love, and just being able to relax around food.

(Here’s how to deal with body shaming at the holiday table, and beyond)

holiday overeating

Turn away from diet culture’s messaging that you’re weak and need ‘fixing.’

Any company that tries to sell you a cleanse, detox, or diet after the holidays is betting on the possibility that you’ll believe their passive aggressive messaging that you’ve been weak and gluttonous.

That’s all garbage. You don’t need a ‘kickstart’ in any way, shape, or form. That’s all BS.

Nobody has ever gotten healthier, physically or emotionally, by going on a ‘kickstart’ diet or cleanse. Those things are how you destroy your relationship with food and your body, and physically, they’re just unnecessary. Nothing is getting cleansed or detoxed if you consume nothing but juice for a week, or follow some elimination diet. 

Not worth it.

Don’t subscribe to anyone’s pathetic attempts to make you feel bad about yourself in order to line their pockets with your cash. 

After the holidays, go back to your normal eating habits. No need to do anything more than that. 

Don’t talk about how much you’ve eaten to anyone who will listen.

Newsflash: Nobody cares how much pie you ate or how ‘fat’ you feel. 

The more you talk about this subject, the more you’re going to feel guilty about what you’ve consumed. Also, when you say stuff like this to others, it can trigger them, too. 

Guilt and shame never play nice with food and eating, and allowing them to even enter into the conversation (either out loud or in your head) can not only bore people to death, it can also make you feel bad about yourself, even though you did nothing wrong. 

No matter what you’ve eaten, it’s not a crime. It’s not shameful. Telling yourself it is, and repeatedly insulting yourself with negative self-talk, can start to consume your life and your emotions. 

So, change your tape…that is, the tape that’s playing negative s*it in your head.

When you start to berate yourself about your eating, take notice. Flip that negative self-talk into something positive, or even just neutral!

Here’s an example:

You: I’m so fat. I ate so much last night, I can’t believe I did that. I have no self-control.

Flipped: My body is strong and healthy. I enjoyed the food I ate last night, and the company I ate it with. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m not going to make myself feel bad about it. 

Then, move on. 

(I go through this in much more detail in my book, Good Food, Bad Diet)


Don’t try to ‘burn off’ your food.

The whole ‘turkey trot’ thing where you’re supposed to burn off your Thanksgiving calories with exercise is really silly, not to mention outdated, especially according to the latest research.

As I wrote in my post about why we shouldn’t try to exercise off our food, using exercise as a tool to ‘make up for’ overeating doesn’t work.

Not only does it create the emotionally toxic situation where exercise becomes punishment for eating, but we probably don’t burn as many calories as we previously thought, through exercise. 

A recent metabolism study suggests that the body actually compensates for the calories we expend during exercise, by lowering the metabolic rate an average of 28%. Different peoples’ levels of compensation vary, but this 28% number is significant. 

This means that when your calorie-counting app (oh hello, Noom and MFP) adds extra calories to your budget because you’ve exercised, that’s completely wrong. 

(Read why I think Noom is a diet)

It also means that killing yourself at the gym after eating is also wrong, emotionally and physically. It can cause injury and exhaustion, and is a lesson in time-sucking futility. So please don’t do it.

Don’t stop exercising, of course, but this is just another reminder that when you try to burn off your food, well, your body doesn’t work like that. 


Eat a balanced diet when you can.

Holiday food is notoriously not the most nourishing. It’s delicious, but let’s face it: there aren’t a lot of vegetables and fibre in there. 

And while I want you to enjoy every special holiday meal, there’s also a lot of other meals in there that aren’t special, but still need your attention. These are where you want to try and eat those vegetables, that fibre, those fruits, whole grains, lean proteins. You know, the stuff you probably eat year round anyhow. 

Eating a balanced diet most of the time during the holidays will help you feel strong and energetic, keep you regular, and nourish you.

Don’t just not eat.

Please do not starve yourself. 

Don’t starve yourself before a big meal.

Don’t starve yourself after you overeat.

You still need to eat, regardless of what you have coming up and regardless of how much you ate at your last meal.

Not eating can take you down the vortex of horribleness otherwise known as a binge-starve cycle, where you eat a lot, then starve to ‘make up’ for it, then overeat because you’re starving, then don’t eat because you overate…you get the point.

Please no.

You don’t need to ‘bank calories’ before a big dinner, either. Eat normally. 


The moral of the story: enjoy the holidays.

Let’s make this holiday season the one where you don’t berate yourself.

Where you enjoy what the season is about: the friends, the family, the food, the smiles, the glow of being together again. 

And after it’s all done, move on with your life the way you’re supposed to: without guilt, shame, or diets.