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The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!

Your Mind and Holiday Season Weight Gain

The winter holiday season is here, and for many of us it’s full of high-risk eating situations with high potential for weight gain. Or, as Jennie Kramer LCSW recently wrote, “These last three months of the year are jam-packed with socially-sanctioned opportunities to overeat. Starting with Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Chanukah/Christmas/New Year’s holiday season, you’ll find candy, cookies and other tempting foods everywhere you go. There are parties at work and at school and, of course, gatherings with friends and family. These holidays are not necessarily meant to be about food in excess, but there are many reasons why they become so….start the season with a healthy dose of self-awareness. Prepare yourself for the onslaught of temptation by making a plan to protect yourself. It won’t work to simply tell yourself to “just say no.”

Ms Kramer goes on to comment: “…overeating is a form of addiction. It’s not about being weak, undisciplined, slovenly or lacking in willpower. It’s an addiction to the stimulation to the pleasure center of the brain, both by certain foods as well as by just the anticipation or excitement about certain foods. Harvard researchers demonstrated that eating high-glycemic foods lights up the very same parts of the brain that are activated in substance abuse like drugs or alcohol. It’s much, much harder for people who are vulnerable to overeating to stop with just one piece of candy or a single cookie than it is for other people. If you were to view comparative brain scans of people during a hit of cocaine, an alcohol binge, or a food binge, you would not be able to tell which is which”.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the average adult consumes 3,000 calories and 229 g of fat in one Thanksgiving meal. A 160-pound person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours, or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal. Furthermore, that figure swells to 4,500 calories when the entire day’s feasting is considered!

When it comes to holiday season excess, the way we think can help us or hurt us. Here are some typical thought patterns that get people in trouble when it comes to holidays and weight gain:

– Filtering – looking at only one part of a situation to the exclusion of everything else.

Example: “I can’t enjoy the holidays if I have to stick to a healthy food plan”.

Common result: Abandoning healthy eating for the duration of holiday season – and perhaps beyond too.         .

– Polarized Thinking – perceiving everything at the extremes, as either black or white, with nothing in the grey zones.

Example: “Either I’m completely on my healthy meal plan – or I’m completely off it. There’s no way I can stay on it over the holidays, so I might as well just give up now”.

Common result: Unhealthy eating for the entire holiday season – and perhaps beyond too.

– Overgeneralization – reaching a generalized conclusion based on just one piece of evidence.

Example: “I love holiday treats, and so there’s no way I can avoid weight gain over the holidays”.

Common result: Giving up before trying.

– Mind Reading – basing assumptions and conclusions on “knowing” other people’s thoughts.

Example: “My friends will be offended if I don’t eat everything they prepared for me”.

Common result: Overindulging, giving up before trying.

– Catastrophizing – turning everything into a catastrophe, always expecting a bad outcome.

Example: “I ate too much pie, so I’ll probably gain back all the weight I’ve lost”.

Common result: Giving up now rather than getting right back on track at the next meal.

– Control Fallacies – believing either that your life is completely controlled by external forces, or that you are responsible for everything that happens.

Example: I can’t maintain a healthy weight over the holidays because my family members have to have all the treats.

Common result: giving up without trying, not making a plan based on enjoying treats in moderation.

– Fallacy of Fairness – judging life by rules you’ve adopted about what is and what isn’t fair.

Example: “It’s not fair that I can’t eat like everyone else and still maintain my healthy weight”.

Common result: not making a plan based on moderation.

– Discounting Positives – ignoring good things that happen.

Example: I attended 3 parties this week and gained a pound – I didn’t do a good job of managing my weight this week.

Common result: Becoming discouraged and giving up.

– Fortune Telling – predicting that things will turn out badly.

Example: “I didn’t lose weight this week, so I’ll never be able to lose weight”.

Common result: Becoming discouraged and giving up.

– Magnification– blowing things out of proportion.

Example: “It’s impossible for me to control my cravings for holiday treats”.

Common result: Giving up without trying to make a plan based on enjoyment in moderation.

– “Should” statements – using a rigid set of standards to determine how everyone, including oneself, should operate.

Example: I should never waste food – even if I’m full or I don’t like it.

Example: I shouldn’t inconvenience my family by limiting holiday treats at home.

Common result: High exposure to temptation, with high risk for out-of-control indulging.

– Justification – linking two unrelated issues to justify overeating.

Example: “I deserve to eat this piece of pie because I’m so stressed out”.

Common result: Mindless or “trance” eating, with no regard to the consequences.

Do any of these types of thoughts sound familiar to you? Have they tripped you up in the past? Maybe this year can be different! Share your thoughts and experience with me and with other readers by commenting on this post.

So, what can we do?

We need to be aware of when we’re having these self-sabotaging thoughts – and get into the habit of challenging them! To learn effective strategies for combating self-sabotaging thoughts, join my next class, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management (details below).

As Dr Susan Albers, author of Eat.Q. recommends: “Celebrate people not food”.

Dietician Abby Langer recommends these strategies:

  • Don’t make excuses (for abusing your body with too much food and too little exercise)
  • Plan ahead (and eat before you go so you don’t arrive ready to eat everything in sight – read my recent blog post on planning ahead for more strategies – information below)
  • Satisfy your sweet cravings (with something healthy)
  • Do as Cindy Crawford said (“I’m not going to let anyone twist my arm and shove a cookie in my mouth”) – be ready with a response for people who try to make you eat more than you want. “I’d love to but I’m already stuffed,” works well.
  • Keep active
  • Let it go (the guilt, that is – because guilt can trigger us to throw in the towel rather than self-correct at the next meal)


To learn more about effective weight management strategies, join my next weight management class, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management. For details, check my website:

For frequent updates on this topic and related topics on weight management and motivation, follow me on Facebook and on Pinterest: Institute for Lifelong Weight Management; On Twitter and Instagram: InstituteForLWM.

Join me for my free Teleseminar on Sunday November 16th at 12 noon Central Standard Time: “Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season.” For details, call-in information, and to register, email me:

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With your continued health in mind,

Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.

Director, The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management

Creator, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management

The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh™ is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.