Many of us struggle with eating too much, especially this time of year. Treats abound, and winter inspires comforting, filling foods and less activity. We know that if we simply ate smaller portions, we’d feel better and perhaps maintain or even lose some weight. But, this is not as simple as it seems. If we notice that overeating is turning into a pattern, it’s time to shift. But how?

Removing the offender or avoiding the trigger is always the most successful strategy. But often this is easier said than done. For some reason, people like bringing donuts to staff meetings. Also, we have attachments to certain foods. For example, I love dark chocolate and  have a difficult time controlling myself around my brownie recipe. Once I taste a morsel, I keep going back for more, until they’re gone. So for me, avoiding the trigger means not making this recipe very often. I also deliberately arrange to make them disappear (easy to do because they are sooooo good!) before I consume more than I intend.

Sometimes it’s just not possible to avoid the trigger. For example, it’s hard to avoid the holiday season entirely. But we can learn a new way of responding. Let’s say we’ve been invited to three different  holiday gatherings  and we know they will all have lots of yummy food and drink. Perhaps we choose one or two of the gatherings to attend, rather than all three of them. A new way of responding may be to make sure we’re not too hungry when we arrive (so eat normally throughout the day). Bring a dish that will feel good to eat like an interesting salad or vegetable platter. Plan on choosing one treat while we are there. Incorporate more activity into the day before the event, so we feel more connected to our bodies, which may inspire choices that feel good. Avoid standing by the food table, and use a smaller plate if possible.

Alcohol consumption can be tricky. Timing when to have a glass of wine may help you. It’s hard to have just one glass, even when that’s what you’d prefer.  Try starting with sparkling water and hold out on the wine till later in the evening.

Plan ahead by imagining being there, visualize having meaningful connections, and finding pleasure in  the abundance of the season. Honor what feels right for you.

Also see the Hunger-Fullness Scale for tips about managing emotional eating.