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Before you began using the Overcoming Overeating approach, you may have felt anxious about eating during the winter holiday season. "How can I go to all those parties and not stuff myself?" "Why do I get through the whole evening without eating and then find myself binging at home?"

Now you can face the holiday season directly—with its joys and disappointments—without the fear of food. Wherever you are on your Overcoming Overeating journey, we'd like to share some ideas about enhancing your activities as a demand feeder during this time of year.

  1. Bring "carry-home" containers with you to dinner parties and gatherings so that you know from the moment you step in the door that you can take food with you if you want to. Imagine complimenting your hostess or host by saying, "This really looks wonderful, but I'm just not hungry for it now. Would you mind if I take a bit home with me?" Or request the recipe so that you can provide the dish for yourself in the future. In one of our groups, we shared an eating experience in which everyone brought "more than enough" of her contribution to the potluck. Baggies, foil, and paper plates were set out to remind participants that they could take home whatever they wanted. The following week, group members were unanimous in reporting how calming it had been to know that they didn't have to eat everything at the gathering because they could take food with them to try at home. No one felt compelled to overeat. If doughnuts are offered at your office but don't match your stomach hunger, add them to your food bag for another time.

  2. If you feel you'll overeat because certain foods are special for the holidays, you have several choices… You can stock up on the special foods ahead of time so they'll become everyday foods; you can keep them special and be compassionate about the mouth hunger that may occur when you're in their presence; or you can remind yourself that special foods don't get more special when you overeat them. Keep in mind that special foods are often special because of the memories attached to them. Is it the food itself you are wanting or is it a memory you want to recreate?

  3. If you would like to try to be hungry at the parties or dinners, you have the option of trying to arrange your hunger to match your schedule. Remind yourself that your enjoyment or lack of enjoyment at a particular gathering is not dependent on whether or not you eat. This is difficult to remember in a culture that views food as a special bond. But when you are able to separate eating from interacting, you will be able to get in touch with how you're really feeling in a social situation.

Many women report an upsurge of bad body thoughts at this time of year. Most of us have reactions to the social and religious events of the holidays. It's also hard to be immune to all the messages about making New Year's resolutions to diet and bodyshape.

If you experience a sudden onslaught of bad body thoughts, remind yourself to set them aside compassionately and try to decode them. What are the words of your bad body thought? Do these words apply to something else that's going on with you? Perhaps the words refer to your feelings about a situation you are in or a person you are with. For example, Sue, in one of our groups, told us that as she was dressing to go to a party, she couldn't stand how she looked. After she'd rejected all of the outfits she'd tried on, she finally asked herself what it was she really couldn't stand? She realized immediately that she was unhappy about going to this party and, for the first time in her life, she gave herself permission to stay home. For someone else, the helpful solution might be quite different, but all solutions rest on correctly identifying the problem by decoding your bad body thought.

Best wishes for a healthy and satisfying year,

Carol G. and Judith M.

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