5 Ways to Outsmart Overeating this Winter


For chronic dieters and people who struggle with overeating, January can be a challenge. After the busy holiday season, leftover treats and "comfort foods" are everywhere. Many of us felt deprived when we abstained from the holiday buffet and guilty when we did indulge, leaving us more confused than ever about what to do next with our eating. After years -- or even decades -- of engaging in an annual cycle of deprivation, overeating and remorse (along with a few pounds of winter weight gain) mentally preparing ourselves for a new year and a new approach can make us feel like the Thanksgiving turkey: stuffed but unsatisfied.

Few people realize that successfully ending overeating patterns is more about the self-care and life skills that promote consistency and sustained internal motivation than it is about willpower. These 5 habits harness some of these skills to help you outsmart overeating in 2018.

1. Feed yourself well. Eating nutritious, satisfying foods when you are hungry can prevent sagging energy levels and feelings of deprivation. Practiced consistently, this habit sends a message to your brain and body that food is readily available, reducing cravings and making you less likely to pounce on the leftover holiday-themed chocolates on the department store SALE shelf. Feeding yourself well also involves tuning in to appetite signals, eating when you are hungry and choosing another activity when you are not. This pattern of "normal" eating is a learnable skill that gets easier with practice.

2. Plan ahead. Successful people plan ahead for success. Packing a nutrient-dense lunch or snack to take to work can keep you energized for long days and after-hours gift returns. It can also save money, reducing stress that might otherwise manifest as mindless eating. In a similar fashion, planning ahead for much-needed exercise during the winter hibernation season, either alone or with a friend, indoors or out depending on weather conditions, may help increase the amount of pleasure in your life, helping you manage stress without defaulting to food.

3. Let go of perfectionism. Rather than vowing never to indulge in festive foods and then suffering from an unplanned binge when you can't stand it anymore, consider a more moderate approach. An occasional deviation from the ideal (provided you don't have health issues that prohibit it) may make your healthy eating plan more sustainable. If you permit yourself to enjoy an occasional treat, then return to more healthful eating the next time you are hungry, a small indulgence won't derail your efforts to care for yourself well.

4. Practice positive self-talk. Plan how you will respond if you eat more than you expected or if obstacles to your eating and self-care plans arise. Rather than beating yourself up, which can lead to mindless eating or bingeing, practice speaking to yourself in a constructive and kind way, even when things don't go exactly as planned.

5. Seek Support - Consider engaging the services of a registered dietitian with expertise in Intuitive Eating to help you create an eating plan that provides you with adequate nutrition in a sustainable, pleasant way. These professionals can often help you become more skilled at tuning in to appetite, so that you eat when you are hungry and choose a different activity when you are not. If you find that you still have difficulty saying no to food when you are not hungry or stopping eating when you have had enough, you might seek help from a therapist or certified health and wellness coach with expertise in eating psychology.

Celebratory eating during the holiday season does not have to derail your winter health and wellness goals. By combining learnable self-care strategies and life skills with kind, encouraging self-talk, those of us who struggle with overeating can learn to eat in our own best interest all year long. For more information on success education for chronic dieters, visit www.deliberatelifewellness.com.

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Until next week, my friends,
Here’s to your deliberate life!

Dr. Paige

"A version of this article first appeared in the January 2018 issue of the Parklander magazine.”