How to Break the Holiday Overeating and Overwhelm Habit | TMOHP Episode 064

We’re so used to talking about holiday overeating, holiday overwhelm, and holiday stress. In fact, many smart women take it for granted that weight gain and the holidays go hand-in-hand and that changing their relationship with food begins in January. It’s also a common mistake that doing anything else leads to less enjoyment, deprivation, and not having the holiday season that you want.

The truth is, there are common mistakes that smart women make all the time that lead to holiday overeating cycles that aren’t satisfying or even enjoyable. Breaking those patterns can actually increase your joy and decrease your stress (contrary to what diet mentality might have taught you).

In this episode:

  • 10 common mistakes that lead to overeating, guilt, and unhappiness during the holidays (and how to avoid making them) - plus a bonus
  • Consistency vs. perfection
  • Why you should stop working “harder” to stop overeating

Featured on the show:

Episode Transcript

Hello everybody. Welcome! As I am recording this episode, we are at the beginning, or I don't know, maybe in the middle of the holiday season. That end of year time that encompasses lots of different holidays, lots of different feelings and emotions and schedule changes and busyness and excitement. And also sadness and stress and anxiety for some people and loneliness. Right. It's a mixed bag, but the end of the year can be a lot. And I hear from so many people during this time of year that it is an incredible juggling act to do all the things and meet the expectations and figure out how to fit yourself in. 

So want to talk about that today. Today I have for you 10 holiday mistakes that lead to overeating, guilt, and unhappiness. Why am I talking about this? Do you really need to hear about more mistakes this time of year? Well, I think so because when life gets busy and you start to feel like things are a lot or maybe are getting overwhelmed or stressed, it is so natural to look for ways to be more efficient or to add more ease or to just get the thing done so you can move on. Right. And as a clinical psychologist who has been helping women, smart women with issues related to overwhelm and overload and overeating, and the vicious cycles that can get created with all of these things and lead to all those hidden hungers that lead to more emotional eating and overeating, I see these pitfalls that happen.

So if you're listening to this during the holiday season, this is a great time to either learn about these mistakes so you don't make them or remind yourself of them. And if you have found this episode, and it's not the holiday season? Everything I'm going to talk about is absolutely relevant during times that feel, different, busy or potentially overwhelming. Or, and by different I mean they're, they're outside of your normal schedule. Okay. So here are 10 things you want to be aware of so that you don't fall into the traps. 

The first mistake I see all the time is starting with a should instead of a vision. Overwhelm by its nature it, it either puts us into reactive mode or we get into overwhelm because we're in reaction mode. We're just reacting to things that feel like they are coming at us, and it is so easy when we are in that head space to create a to-do list, right? I should do this, I need to do this, I have to do this. And just follow like breadcrumbs one should after another, after another. Which is not rewarding or gratifying and leaves you in reaction mode instead of starting with a vision. And by a vision when we think about the holidays, I always think about where do you want to end up?

So how do you want to feel on January 2nd? Or if you've got this big, huge thing happening that is the, the whole of your holidays or is a major part of your holidays? How do you want to feel when that last guest leaves? Or when you leave, when you're in the car driving home? What is the experience that you want to create? Start with a vision of what you want your holidays to look like and feel like, and what you want yourself to look like and feel like when they're over. Instead of starting with a blank piece of paper where you write down a giant list of to-dos, that feels overwhelming and exhausting before you even start. Because that right there is a recipe for overeating and emotional eating.

Mistake number two, cutting back on sleep. Right. As tempting as it might be as, as much as it may seem like, oh, that's the easy button, that's the thing I can give up. Sleep is not the place to try to save on time. Seven and a half hours. That's the magic number. That is the number of hours of sleep that you almost certainly need to get to function at your best, to think clearly, to have an appetite that is aligned with you, because guess what? Sleep deprivation screws with our hunger levels. It's not in your head. If you're not getting enough sleep and you feel hungry, that's not something you're imagining. You are biologically setting yourself up to overeat. If you're not getting enough sleep. Right? You also are not going to be as effective or creative. You're going to have a lower tolerance for stress. Which are all things that also contribute to overwhelm and overeating. All right, so get the sleep seven and a half hours. 

Number three, don't make the mistake of crossing yourself out of your schedule. Again, it's so tempting when you're looking at an overly full calendar. It is so tempting to view your own stuff or to tell yourself that your own stuff is expendable and to put yourself last. But when you think about it, that stuff that you cross off is almost always the stuff that keeps you functioning right? It's the sleep, it's the movement, it's the healthy meals, it's the stress relieving activities. These things are the first things that get crossed off your schedule. And they are the things that allow you to show up for all the hard things. So you know better. 

Instead of eliminating the good stuff instead of just saying, you know, that will come later. Give yourself permission to cut back if you have to. Send your perfectionist on vacation. Right? You don't have to. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. So this may be the season for shorter workouts. Or simpler meals. Ask yourself, how can it be easier? Quick check-ins with friends instead of your usual social dates? Right? That because you've got other stuff on your calendar. It so often comes down to aiming less for perfection and more for a semblance of consistency. Crossing yourself off your schedule will always come back to haunt you. 

Alright, I've lost count of the mistakes here. I think this is number four, and that has to do with overdoing the multitasking. Right? It seems like this is the season to be efficient, to do a million things at once, and you're probably telling yourself that you're quite good at it. But we know from research that multitasking really doesn't exist. Multitasking is actually your brain switching back and forth repeatedly between tasks. Because of that, instead of being more efficient, it actually, it's actually, when you look at the research, it's a time waster. You don't show up for those tasks as well, and you don't show up as completely. And you tend to feel more exhausted and overwhelmed after a day of multitasking than you do if you give yourself permission to give things focused attention. Right. 

So is it okay to clean the sink when you are on hold with customer service? Of course it is. But be deliberate about your multitasking and consider just, just experiment. Consider experimenting with giving yourself permission to be present with one task for a short period of time. So ask yourself, what am I going to focus on for the next 20 minutes? What is my priority for this morning? Give yourself permission to experiment with that and see how it feels. You may notice a huge difference in both your productivity and your overwhelm. And when those things feel more in your control when you feel empowered in those areas. That also can reverberate into your relationship with food and whether you are wandering into the kitchen or finding yourself doing more emotional eating because you're stressed out and you're multitasking and you're either overwhelmed or you're not really paying attention.

So while we are talking about multitasking, let's weave in there the mistake of eating while you're doing something else. Right? That might be eating in your car, eating on the go, eating at your desk, trying to get more done, not giving yourself permission to stop. You should know that women who eat while they are doing something else also tend to eat more and feel less satisfied with what they have eaten.

I can tell you from so many conversations with clients, so many conversations with women in Your Missing Peace about, especially like about things like holiday eating or special eating. When we really get right down to it and talk about, you know, how present are you with this eating that turns into overeating? So much of the time eating even the special foods, the foods that that you are telling yourself you look forward to. So much of the eating that turns into overeating is eating that is being done while you're multitasking. While you're not really mindful or present. 

And for me, the real sad thing is that when we have these conversations, one of the things I always ask is, okay, that wonderful food, that gingerbread or that holiday baking that you did, how much of it did you fully taste? How much of it did you fully enjoy? And if you are eating, when you are multitasking, if you are kind of zoned out doing something else, the answer is usually not very much. 

So here is a way of multitasking that is actually helpful. You can work at making the shift of viewing meal time. As an opportunity to get grounded and be present with yourself. Meal time can be an opportunity to check in with yourself. That is a kind of multitasking that will really pay off. Meal time can also be a place where you commit to practicing savoring your food. You have to be present to savor your food, to taste your food, to allow yourself to enjoy the special things. When you do those things, you can pay attention to how you're feeling, whether you're hungry, whether you're full. So how you're feeling in your body. Also, how you're feeling emotionally. Are you tense? Are you relaxed? Are you anxious? Are you bored? Practice being present with your eating. Practice, asking yourself whether what you need is food or whether it is something else. It only takes a few moments. It's a practice. You may not be good at it at first, but it can make all the difference in the rest of your day and in your eating and in how you feel during and at the end of the holiday season. So take a, take a look at eating on the go. Take a look at multitasking when you're eating, and challenge yourself to develop some new practices over the next couple of weeks, or to practice some things that have worked for you in the past.

Okay, so mistake number six. The one you want to avoid is the one I think of as skipping the pregame planning. I talked about how when we get overwhelmed, we get in reaction mode and so many women go through the holidays or much of the holidays in reaction mode because when life's crazy, when life feels chaotic, it is so tempting to just jump in and just start moving. Just do something, get going, right? Attack the to-do list. The problem is we all know how easy it is to spend a day or a week or a month working hard and still not feel really like you've accomplished much. Right? It's kind of like the when you get lost in your inbox and you spend all day doing it and you didn't get to any of your important tasks.

Investing 10 minutes on the front end of your day using some time to get clear on your priorities, to get clear on what you need for yourself that day. To get clear on what your calendar looks like and what is realistic to adjust your thoughts. 10 minutes to think about what, what is the attitude I'm bringing to the day? What are the thoughts? What do I want to focus on today? Just a few moments to be mindful of any potential hurdles or challenges. 

Taking that time on the front end. And I will tell you, sometimes even just noticing those things, you don't always have to have a, a plan that feels airtight for dealing with them. But sometimes just naming, oh, this is going to be a challenge or it’s going to be hard to fit lunch in. I need to be really deliberate about that. Sometimes just saying those things out loud to yourself can be worth their weight in gold. And taking that time on the front end, putting yourself in the driver's seat instead of being reactive will save you so much stress. And also so much time in the long run, and probably a lot of overeating and emotional eating and getting too hungry, and then ending up binging or eating stuff that you don't want to eat. So don't skip the pre-game planning. 

The seventh mistake that I want to talk about goes hand in hand with that. And I see this one all the time. I work with so many women who are high achievers, who expect big things. Who get big results. And the flip side of doing big things all the time is underestimating the power of the smaller things. So during this busy time, do not make the mistake of underestimating the power of 10 minutes. It may sound hard to believe, but what I see is that for so many women, the holidays go sideways or, personal goals slide off people's radar. Not because it is the holiday season, but because people tell themselves things like, I don't have time for that. Or I don't have time to do a real workout, or I just need to, I just need to do that when there's more time to devote to that. 

If you go back and listen to these mistakes that I'm talking about, you will notice that so many of the things I am asking you not to skip are things that you can do in small ways. If you find yourself constantly thinking, I don't have time. Ask yourself whether you can think smaller. Do not get stuck in the high achiever head trap of all or nothing perfectionist thinking. Because it is a trap and it is a trap that leads to overeating. I've talked about that in a number of podcast episodes I'll, I'll link to that in the show notes. But, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. It doesn't have to be perfect. Sometimes we just need to show up for ourselves. 

Just because you don't have time for an hour long cardio workout does not mean .That you can't go for a 10 minute walk and that you won't benefit from that. Five minutes of journaling. One minute of journaling might really help untangle your brain. One minute of strategic planning in the morning or looking at your calendar can make a huge difference when you don't have 10 minutes. A 10 minute email might get you the help or the answers you need to save hours. Taking 10 minutes to transition after work. Oh, that's a huge one. And taking that 10 minutes just might save you that trip where you wander into the kitchen and you eat way too many holiday cookies, and then you don't feel like eating dinner. 

When you're stressed and overwhelmed, don't be afraid to give yourself permission to give yourself a little breathing space. Most of the time, almost all of the time, taking that 10 minutes will put you into a place, whether it's a physical place or a mindset place, or a decision making place where what you do after that 10 minutes is more focused and more effective and feels a lot better. You almost always have time for 10 minutes. You can almost always take 10 minutes without the sky falling in. Really. 

Okay. Mistake number eight, that happens so much of the time when you combine something like the holidays or an overwhelming time with being in reaction mode and a little dose of perfectionism. And what I'm describing are so many human beings and mistake number eight is going it alone, which often starts with the thought- it's just quicker if I do it myself. This is a phrase that leads to so much unnecessary stress. It might seem like that in the moment. It almost always, I will tell you if you're in reaction mode. Reacting to a bunch of things coming at you and feeling like, oh, you know, I have to keep juggling because there's just another ball that's going to get thrown at me in a minute. When you are in that mode, it is almost always going to seem easier in the moment to just do it yourself. But, Right, but... 

Trying to do everything is just going to either set you up for vicious cycles of overload and overwhelm, or it's going to keep you stuck in them. As long as you are reacting where balls are being thrown at you and you have to catch them. And you're thinking, it's just me, if I don't catch these balls, right, the bad things are going to happen. The cycle never gets broken. You know what happens when you are in what feels like a never ending cycle with overwhelm and overload and an endless supply of holiday cookies. It's overeating. Right? Break the cycle. Let's break the cycle. Ask for help. Delegate or don't do it. 

Ask for help. Be specific. If you can't be specific, then you can also use this magic formula that I just love. Somebody that you feel comfortable with. You can, you can just ask them, is there a way you can help me with this? You might be amazed. I see people amazed all the time with the results they get with that one. Can you do this for me? Is there a way you can help with, or how can we divide up this to-do list? How would you like us to divide up this to-do list? These phrases can be golden. 

All right. Mistake number nine, and it has to do with food. This happens all the time during busy times, right? Skipping meals and skipping meals often starts with thoughts. I don't have time. I don't have time for lunch. I don't have time to think about lunch. I don't have time to stop for breakfast. Setting yourself up with that cycle at the beginning of the day often leads to overeating at the end of the day. Eating that feels out of control. Coming home so hungry or cranky, maybe you don't even recognize you're hunger. That you don't feel like you can make the kind of decisions, you can't make, the kind of decisions that you want to make.

And if you do come home with superhuman levels of willpower, if you manage to control your eating, at that point in the day, you're likely to feel tired and edgy and headachey and absolutely no fun. So I want to direct you back to the 10 minute idea. Put your perfectionist outside. It might not be about creating the perfect meal right now. It might not be possible or reasonable to do the perfect, and I'm using air quotes, you know, the perfect meal prep. This may be quick, easy, get it done time. Right? What can you do in 10 minutes to prepare yourself so you don't skip meals? If you have a list of quick, healthy options eating doesn't have to take a lot of time.

Maybe this is the season of grab and grab and go lunches. Right? Things that you keep in your freezer, or having a list of takeout options that you can get from your office or from your home office that are easy and that fit the bill. If you don't have a list, take those 10 minutes and start making them now five to 10 things that you can grab that keep you feeling fueled and on track.

Give yourself permission to not get it perfect. Give yourself permission to keep it simple. Tuna, Greek yogurt, a smoothie, almonds, cheese sticks, pre-made salads with protein. Right? Stuff that will stay with you and that isn't going to lead to a blood sugar slump in the afternoon or the evening. But stuff that feeds you and nourishes you so that you can be the person that you want to be instead of powering through, trying not to overeat at the end of the day when skipping meals has just predisposed you to want to do that. Don't skip meals. Give yourself that 10 minutes to think about what would work for me, what would be easy, and what would be doable? 

Okay. Mistake number 10 is a good one. Maybe I should have just started with it, but we need to cover this one. We need to talk about that. Mistake number 10 is what smart high achievers do all the time. When they start to feel overwhelmed, they, we, I'm one of us. Right? When we start to feel overwhelmed or when we start to feel like we are off track and we need to get back on track. Right? We need to do things differently. The old deprivation mentality approach. The old diet mentality approach is to blame yourself for being in the place that you are. Blame yourself that stuff hasn't been working, and then make this mistake. And the mistake is that the way out of the trap is to work harder. 

So many smart. Spend the holidays telling themselves that things will just work better. If they can only work harder. And you may not use the words, I need to work harder. You may use the words I need to be more disciplined. I need to be more focused. I need to get up earlier. I need to get more organized. Right? Telling yourself that the reason stuff is falling through the cracks, the reason you aren't superwoman is that there is something wrong with you. Telling yourself that the reason you are overeating at the end of the day, or you just ate all the cookies or you forgot to eat lunch yet again, is that there's something wrong with you and you just need to work harder.

This is such a big mistake, and this is one of the major contributors to a vicious cycle that never ends with overwhelm and overload and overeating. Because if you are in a cycle that is not working and you tell yourself to work harder, all you are doing is setting yourself to run faster and faster on a hamster wheel. Right?

So my lovely listener during this holiday season, give yourself permission to work smarter instead of harder. And what is smarter? Smarter is working in a way that is aligned with you. Asking yourself, okay, instead of, I need to work harder. What is making this hard? Could I make it easier? Could I make it smaller? What if I focused on imperfect consistency instead of these impossible standards that are exhausting me? What could I do less of? How could I show up feeling the way I want to feel on January 2nd? What would it take? What could I do differently? 

If you take the pressure off, if you stop telling yourself that the answer to exiting a vicious cycle with overeating and overwhelm and overload is running faster and working harder. If you do this one thing. If you stop telling yourself that working harder is the answer. And you start being curious about what working smarter looks like, so much will change. That is the way off the hamster wheel. Alright? 

I said I had a bonus mistake for you. A mistake that I don't want you to make this holiday season so that you really can be moving forward, creating freedom from overeating and overwhelm and overload. So that you can really enjoy the holiday season. And that is please do not make the also common mistake of telling yourself that you and your plans and your goals and the things that are important to you need to wait until January. 

Your relationship with food, it's for life. Your relationship with food includes the holidays. Your relationship with food includes you being human. It includes food and treats and challenging situations. Give yourself a break and be real. This is your relationship with food. It doesn't get to or need to or have to wait until January. You can work at having the relationship you want to have now.

And I would bet that part of that is moving toward your goals, but also not feeling deprived and like you're kind of the odd man out. Right? Or the odd woman or the odd human being out. When you think about it, telling yourself that you and your plans need to wait until January. Again. Every year. It is just another continuation of, of a vicious cycle that is probably not working for you. So stop it. Don't tell yourself you need to wait. You don't need to wait. You can fit yourself in. Imperfectly. Consistently. In small, doable ways. 

And if you want help designing a relationship with food that truly honors who you are and truly honors and reflects what your life looks like, then come join us in Your Missing Peace. We're here all December and into January doing the things. Creating better relationships with food. And relationships with food that are not based on deprivation thinking and working harder and going it alone, and skipping meals and waiting till January.

So there you have it. I just gave you 11 holiday mistakes that lead to overeating and guilt and unhappiness. And the things that you can do to get off that hamster wheel. 

I'll talk to you soon.

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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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