There’s nothing more relatable than a holiday binge: During the holidays, everyone has an occasion—OK, maybe a few occasions—where they go overboard on an eating binge.
Sound like you? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Even if your festive feast makes you feel like you’ve gained 10 pounds, it’s not too late. Stressing about “going overboard” a single time can actually make things worse. In a 2014 study, scientists found that women who were stressed burned 104 fewer calories in the seven hours after a meal than those who were feeling stress-free, says The Ohio State University.
But if you’re binging throughout the holiday “season” instead of on one or two special occasions, the results can really add up. Research, published in Nutrition & Metabolism, shows that Americans gain an average of one to two pounds during the holiday season, with most of the weight gained being fat. And trying to lose weight during the season can backfire for some: In a study, published in the Journal of Obesity, obese participants who attempted to drop pounds during the holiday season actually wound up gaining weight instead.
If you’re worried about setting your weight loss progress back significantly, think about limiting the number of times that you binge to focus on the holiday meals and occasions that you really love. Maybe your Mom’s Christmas dinner is legendary, but the food at your office party is just ordinary. In that case, indulge at Mom’s house and focus more on networking when you’re with your coworkers.
Nutrisystem dietitians say that eating the foods you really crave—like Mom’s famous, buttery mashed potatoes—can help you move past the craving instead of grazing on less-satisfying fare. This can especially work if you savor the holiday foods you really love: Eating mindfully and paying attention to the tastes, textures, aromas and feelings associated with eating a food has been shown to help eaters feel more satisfied and lose weight. In a three-month study, published by Ohio State University, mindful eating practices helped diabetics significantly lower their blood sugar, says Science Daily.
When mindful eating involves a favorite food, it can work even better: In another study, published in the journal Appetite, scientists studied participants who ate chocolate. Those who did so while practicing mindful eating experienced more mood-boosting affects from the chocolate than those who just wolfed it down without thinking.
Even by limiting your binges, the holidays may slow, stall or set you back with your weight loss progress. However, research published in Physiology & Behavior says that the most important thing for sustained weight loss is to not let the binges and weight gain continue into January. It’s also important to lose any weight you might have gained due to holiday overeating. Some scientists theorize that little bits of holiday weight gain—weight that most of us don’t lose—is actually to blame for the slow, creeping advance of our overall weight as we age.
“Lose the holiday weight you’ve gained” sounds obvious enough. After all, almost everyone has a New Year’s resolution to clean up their diet. However, most of us don’t succeed, according to research in Nutrition & Metabolism.
In a study, published in the journal PLoS One, scientists found that people actually buy 9.3 percent more calories of food overall after the holidays than they do during the holidays. They also continue to buy “less-healthy” foods at the same rate that they did during the holiday period.
That’s why having a plan that can help you feel full and stay feeling satisfied—instead of crash dieting—is so important after the holidays. With a plan like Nutrisystem, you’ll re-train your mind and body to eat in moderation instead of bingeing, providing your body with the nutrients it needs, the types of foods you really want and in portions that can help you lose the holiday weight.
If you feel like you can’t stop binging—not just during the holidays, but all year—seek medical attention. Binge eating is a real eating disorder that can have real health consequences. Speak to your doctor and he or she can help you determine if your binges are a disorder and provide physical and emotional treatment that may help.