We’ve all done it. You’re watching TV, at your desk working or just plain stressed and overwhelmed with life and you “black-out eat” an entire bag of ranch Doritos, six snowman-shaped sugar cookies, a pint of Haagen Dazs (or “Hog and Hog” as my brother calls it)–anything really. This is a term I coined to describe the type of eating where you have no idea you’re actually ingesting food and calories. You have no recollection of dipping your hand in for more, chewing, tasting, swallowing and repeating. It’s what I tell my husband not to do when I buy the 42-ounce bag of red and green Christmas M&Ms for company.
While blackout eating kinda makes me giggle, overeating during the holidays can be serious come January. The average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day alone, according to the Caloric Control Council (didn’t know we had calorie police?). And, most of those calories are taken in while, you guessed it, blackout eating in front of the TV. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade anyone?
There’s lots of article out there about how to avoid gorging yourself into a coma this year. This article advises eating a salad before a big holiday meal, which I can get on board with. But then it goes on to suggest using a salad plate rather than a dinner plate for your meal because they’re smaller. OK, that’s a little too far. It’s once a year! (Although it’s that precise mentality that health experts are warning against).
Another common mistake when trying to avoid holiday blackout eating is “saving up” so you have more calories to “spend.” Remember that episode of Friends where Joey didn’t eat all day on Thanksgiving to save room for Monica’s cooking and then he borrowed Phoebe’s old maternity pants so he could have room to eat a lot? Apparently that’s bad. This expert says if you arrive at a party (or Monica’s for Thanksgiving dinner) too hungry, you are setting yourself up to overeat.
I say don’t restrict yourself too much this Thanksgiving and Christmas, but just exercise some self control. If you love your aunt’s pumpkin pie and look forward to it all year, eat one or two slices instead of blackout eating five. And use my method to avoid ballooning in November and December: hit the mall. You’d be surprised how much you can burn off just by finishing your shopping list!