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How to Enjoy Holiday Feasts & Treats without Overeating

We all love to indulge in our favorite culinary treats, and the holidays give us an excuse to do so sometimes a little too much. Many people gift baked goods to friends, neighbors, grandparents and co-workers as a way to share the holiday cheer. In addition to receiving an avalanche of cookies, fudge and homemade peanut brittle, there are also holiday feasts to attend where large portions of delicious fare are plentiful. At Evergreen Senior Living, we are all about celebrating life and enjoying the holiday season with friends and family. We want to provide some insight into how to do it without regret and a new diet come the new year.

It can be difficult to avoid your grandmother's famous pecan pie or an extra helping of mashed potatoes during special celebrations. However, overeating, even for short periods of time, can have adverse effects on our physical and emotional wellbeing. When we eat too much or ingest foods that are not normally part of our diet, our digestive system can get out of whack. If you don't normally eat greasy foods or a lot of sugar, your body will not know what to do with the sudden onslaught of those foods and you may end up with a painful stomach-ache (or worse). Too much food causes the stomach to swell up in order to accommodate the extra food. That feeling that you need to loosen your pants? It's because your overfilled stomach is pushing against other organs! And the energy required to digest that large meal causes your organs to work harder in order to produce the enzymes and hormones needed to break down that food.

Other manifestations of physical uncomfortableness come from the gassy, bloated feeling that accompanies overeating, especially if you are eating quickly and drinking carbonated beverages or alcohol with your meal. When we overeat, the hydrochloric acid that our stomach produces to break down all that food can back up into the esophagus. This is the sensation of heartburn – the more food you eat, the more hydrochloric acid your stomach must produce in order to break it down.

Excess calories will also be stored if your body is unable to convert them to energy. Chronic overeating, even just during the few weeks of the holiday season, can add up to a lot of unneeded calories that your body will store as fat. That translates to extra pounds which can lead to a host of mental and emotional unhappiness. As the holidays wind down and the cold months of January and February loom ahead, the challenge of losing that extra weight should make us think twice about overeating.

The mental drawbacks to overeating come when those extra pounds settle in. We certainly don't feel as well physically when we are carrying additional weight, and it can also cause people to feel insecure and have low self-esteem. The lack of confidence can lead to depression and the start of cycle where overeating becomes the norm. Too much excess food in the stomach will cause it to stretch to a larger size, where it takes us longer to feel full, so we continue to overeat. If we get used to too many sugary treats during the holidays, that need for more sugar can cause us to continually eat foods that have little nutritional value but a lot of extra calories.

So how can you avoid falling into the physical and emotional pitfalls of over-consumption during celebrations? Here are a few tips:

  • Don't go to holiday parties or get-togethers hungry. If you show up starving you are more likely to binge on the special offerings, and it is probably you will eat more than normal if you are ravenous. Try to eat slowly so you don't miss the signals your brain is sending you when you are full.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. There are a lot of empty calories in alcoholic beverages, and often they are mixed with high-calorie carbonated drinks or sweeteners that can add up fast.
  • Drink lots of water. In addition to helping you feel more full, the added water will help your body flush out toxins.
  • Choose quantity … small quantities. Holiday meals are often pot-luck style, so it's difficult not to want to sample everything on the menu. You can sample everything, but do so in moderation.
  • If you are the recipient of a big batch of homemade cookies, consider eating a few and freezing the rest to have as small treats throughout the year. Even better, share the holiday delights with others and spread the cheer.

The staff and residents at all Evergreen Senior Living communities want to wish you and yours a very merry and bright holiday season. Enjoy the culinary indulgences in moderation and you will be off to a great start in the new year. Remember you can enjoy all your favorite treats as long as you do so with the end goal being not to overconsume those treats!

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