Tips to prevent holiday overeating

Has overeating during the holidays become as traditional as the decorations and gifts? Following a rigid diet is unrealistic any time of year, but eating the right amount of food isn't really about being good, it's about feeling good.

Think about it: The food you eat becomes, after those first wonderful bites, less and less flavorful. When you eat more than you need, you feel unnecessarily uncomfortable and sleepy. If you feel sluggish, you're less likely to be active. Eating too much can also lead to feeling guilty, which often leads to even more overeating. And of course your body will have no choice but to store the excess.

On the other hand, when you eat just the right amount of food you feel satisfied, content, and happy. You are light, energetic, and ready for your next activity. You may even notice that as you become full, the flavor of the food fades from fabulous to just OK so you lose your interest, knowing that is will taste great again when you get hungry later.

The following simple tips will help keep you from crossing the invisible line that separates a great celebration from an afternoon of discomfort and regret.

Prevention is the best medicine. Before you start eating, decide how full you want to be when you're done. You can decide that you are willing to feel stuffed "” just consider the consequences first.

Estimate how much food you'll need to eat to reach your desired level of fullness. Prepare, serve, or order only as much as you think you'll need. If you have too much, move the extra aside.

Before you start eating, visually or physically divide the food in half to create a "speed bump." Pause and recheck your fullness level when you hit that speed bump in the middle of eating.

Eat slowly, giving every bite your full attention. You'll eat less and enjoy it more.

If your goal is to feel satisfied and comfortable, it will help to move away from the table or move the food away from you to signal that you're done as soon as you are close.

We live in a land of abundance where delicious food is available year round so why eat until you feel miserable? Enjoy the holiday and still feel good when it's over!

Michelle May, M.D. is the founder of the Am I Hungry? ® Mindful Eating Workshops and Facilitator Training Program that helps individuals learn to break free from mindless and emotional eating. She is the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. (Download chapter one free.)