Alice Greene
Fit Beyond 40
by Alice Greene
Lifestyle Fitness Coach

Avoiding Thanksgiving Day Stuffed

It is such a tradition to eat until you are as stuffed as the bird that you may not even realize how full you get. Few escape the need to unbutton their pants or loosen their belts by the end of Thanksgiving Day. Why is that? Let me share three possible explanations you may not have thought of.

First is because we only get this meal once a year. Thanksgiving dinner includes fresh cut turkey, stuffing, pies and all the family recipes that get pulled out for this special occasion. When we finally sit down to dinner we know that this is a one-time thing, not to be repeated for another year. That is a long time, and we feel we have to get it now while we can, because we won't get it again any time soon. So we sit down to dinner having been deprived of it for the past year and knowing we will be deprived of it again for the upcoming year. This sets the stage for overeating, often to the point of feeling sick. Did this happen to you?

The way to avoid this is to plan on having a turkey dinner again in the near future. It doesn't have to be a 12 pound bird. There are lots of ways to purchase and prepare turkey that takes very little time. Then pick some of your favorite holiday recipes to go with it, without going overboard. In this way you can have a scaled-back, but equally similar and enjoyable meal without waiting a whole year. It also helps to have a mini Thanksgiving meal the day after, so that during the big meal on Thanksgiving you know that you will definitely have the meal again - the next day - so you don't feel a need to eat so much of it all at once.

Second, the meal takes hours of preparation and we gather ahead of time to socialize, nibble and wait for the big event. During this time we are impatiently waiting and at the same time often bored, doing preparation chores or talking with family members with whom we may not be that fond or we may not have much to say to. So we eat mindlessly to keep our feelings of frustration, boredom or annoyance at bay or to give us a reason for a diversion. Or we could be having a great time, often accompanied by some alcohol, and again mindlessly eating from the dozens of hors d'oeuvres that surround us. By the time dinner is served, we've already had a fair amount of food and it doesn't take much more to push us past the point of full. Do any of these scenarios match your typical Thanksgiving Day?

To minimize the amount you eat ahead of the big meal requires some consciousness and a bit of planning. If the meal will be served at 1pm and you have breakfast, then be aware that you may want to eat a bit of food in the late morning to tie you over until 1pm. If you are at home, have a balanced snack. If you are at someone else's home, be selective about the hors d'oeuvres you select as your snack. You don't have to deny yourself, but plan on just a few and scan what is available to pick the ones you really think you will enjoy the most. If the meal is later, such as 4pm, then have a balanced lunch around noon. Then you can enjoy a few of the best hors d'oeuvres just before the meal knowing you won't be ravenous or overdoing it. The point is, eat ahead of time so that when you nibble before the meal it is limited and based on what you really want the most.

The third explanation is you may be feeling alone and wish you were with family or you are with family and wishing you were somewhere else. This can create emotions that are difficult to address and food is an easy way to push the feelings away. Food is a comfort and a coping mechanism for emotions. Do you anticipate some emotion during the Thanksgiving holiday?

The way to deal with emotional eating is to let yourself experience the feelings instead of turning away from them. Instead of numbing the feelings out with food, be aware of what you are feeling and how it is tied to your eating. You may want to do this the day before by journaling, letting the emotions out and understanding that this can be a challenging holiday for you. If you don't address it, you will overeat and the feelings will simply be repressed only to surface again at another time.

Be conscious of your hunger levels, find ways not to feel deprived, plan your day so you don't get to the table filled up on hors d'oeuvres, and recognize if you are having some emotions so you can address them without turning to food. Then enjoy all your favorite things about the holiday meal.

Handling Halloween Candy Differently

There is always concern about how much candy kids are eating at Halloween, but what about parents who consume nearly half of what the kids are bringing home? Candy is a comfort food for many of us, and when lying around in bowls and bags, it becomes a temptress greater than most adults can resist. Do you find yourself unable to stop when it comes to Halloween candy?

Instead of gearing up for a binge fest and worrying about how you are going to handle having all that candy around the house, consider what is driving you to overeat and crave it and then put some strategies in place to help yourself eat much less of it.

Some of the most common reasons people can't seem to stop at a few pieces of Halloween candy start with feelings of deprivation. Candy for most people is considered junk food or a food they should not have, and for them candy is on the forbidden food list. When they eat it, they believe they are being bad and falling off their diet, so they have to finish it and get it out of the house to be in control. Then they strive to stay away from it until the holidays get underway and they find themselves right back in the same place, struggling to avoid the next round of bingeing on sweets and striving (but failing) to be in control. It is a never ending cycle that continues right through Valentine's Day. Does this happen to you?

What does this have to do with deprivation? Everything. When you believe that you shouldn't have something, you want it all the more. And the more you try to control the urges and deprive yourself, the more you obsess and overdo it when given the chance. This is human nature, and it is easy to see in children. We tend to forget that as adults we aren't any different. Like kids we rebel against harsh rules and restrictions that are depriving.

We want our candy - or what it represents, but we are determined to apply willpower to resist it. This creates an internal battle between our Enforcer voice and our Rebel voice. Very often the Rebel wins out. But because of the loud Enforcer in the background, harshly criticizing you for what you are doing, you begin to feel guilt and shame, which triggers emotional eating and an all out binge. Next thing you know you've eating more pieces than you want to admit and you feel uncomfortably sick.

What if you created an agreement with your Enforcer and Rebel voices by allowing yourself a bit of candy every once in awhile, agreeing that it isn't forbidden and that if you really want it you can have it in moderation. Now you have calmed down the Rebel voice that will have a tantrum by overeating if it doesn't get its way. The trickier voice to negotiate with is the Enforcer. This is because the Enforcer is the one that enforces your beliefs.

When your beliefs are black and white and don't allow for some grey, then the Enforcer will instigate the Rebel. If you allow for moderation and satisfaction along with some guidelines for restraint, then the Rebel and Enforcer will both quiet down. If you also allow for throwing out the candy when the family has enjoyed it and had enough, everyone wins.

To put this in practice, try the following guidelines (or strategies) to help both the Enforcer and Rebel trust that their needs (meaning your needs) will be met. The first guideline is to eat candy along with a meal so that you aren't eating it alone and driving up your blood sugar levels, which in turn leads to cravings. The second guideline is to pay attention to when you are satisfied or the first signs of feeling a bit full and to stop eating. If you know you want some candy with dinner then make room for it instead of eating it when you are full.

Third, pick just 2-3 pieces of candy that you know are your favorites and savor them, so that you achieve satisfaction. And fourth, tell yourself that you can have more at your next lunch or dinner, so you know that you won't be deprived and can still enjoy this once-a-year candy fest. After a few days, you will all have enjoyed having a bit of candy and you'll be left with candy that isn't your most favorite or you will be tired of it. Now throw what is left out. You won't miss it, because you have let yourself have it. And if that Rebel acts up, tell it that there is always more at the grocery store if it really wants to have it again before next Halloween. This week put guidelines in place so you can enjoy yourself without anxiety on the 31st.

Are You Getting Enough to Eat?

Has it ever occurred to you that you may not be eating enough food? The average American is under eating, which is a result of frequent dieting, fear of overeating, and busy schedules. This seems a bit bizarre, considering the average American is also overweight. Is there a correlation?

I believe there is a direct correlation and there are other experts and research that backs this up. When you under eat, your body doesn't get enough calories to fuel its energy requirements. To manage this imbalance your body has to adapt by lowering your metabolic rate. It does this to survive what is perceived as a food shortage, and when your body is in this state it also begins to hoard fat. The more often your body is in a food shortage mode, the more the body anticipates future food shortages and becomes a fat storing machine, ensuring that when you do get enough food some of it gets stored as fat. Do you think that has happened to you?

Unfortunately, the body is quick to store fat, but reluctant to use it - unless it experiences an extended food shortage or famine (usually an extreme diet). And then the body is even quicker to rebuild its fat stores after the food shortage is over, in case it is needed for an even longer famine. This is why frequent dieters have less success and more weight gain with each successive diet. I hear this all the time from people that don't understand why it was once so easy to lose weight on a diet, and now they can't seem to lose anything on a diet and are hitting their all-time high weight levels. They feel like they are failing at dieting. They aren't failing. The diet is failing them. Diets are one of the primary causes of obesity; because they put the body into a starvation mode and ultimately accelerate fat-storing that is difficult to stop once the metabolic rate has been lowered.

When you do not eat enough food you may also experience exhaustion, weakness, lack of motivation, headaches, lack of concentration, irritability, or possibly depression or moodiness. Food is fuel for the cells in our body, and the brain is particularly affected when it doesn't get enough carbohydrates - its only source of fuel. So if you aren't feeling that well, maybe you aren't eating enough food or enough carbohydrates balanced with protein and fat. Many people who did the Atkins diet found that they didn't think as clearly and got easily fatigued when on the diet, and that is because they weren't getting enough carbohydrates - the body's primary source of fuel. If you did a low carb diet, did you notice any change in your moods, concentration or energy levels?

Another indicator that you might not be getting enough food is if you've been sick a lot, become prone to injuries or stress fractures, or even missed menstrual cycles. Again, food is what fuels our cells and gives us the vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy. When we don't get enough, it affects our internal functions, immune system and even bone density, because the body will start to break down muscle, bone and tissue to get any fuel that is stored in these places to survive.

There is a reason food is called energy or fuel, and that is because every cell in our body needs that fuel as energy to function properly. We are an amazing physical machine that burns energy efficiently to keep us both healthy and alive. But when we don't give our body enough fuel, it doesn't work as well.

One of the things that can happen when you deprive yourself of food is an uncontrollable urge to overeat. This is called the deprivation backlash and it can drive you to eat more than you want or need. What is interesting is most people are driven to overeat carbohydrates when they don't eat enough, and it actually makes sense. When you don't get enough food, you have both a physical and emotional response. Physically, the body gets desperate for more fuel and carbohydrates (particularly simple carbs) is the fastest way to get it, and emotionally, if you've been deprived of carbs you will become more obsessed with them. When was the last time you experienced this?

So this week pay attention to whether you are getting enough to eat. Notice if you are skipping meals and then overeating later, or if you are in a diet mentality and limiting how much you feed yourself. It is best to eat when you are hungry and stop before you are full, letting your body signal you on how much is enough. Try listening to your hunger signals to govern how much food is right for you.

A Different Perspective on Overeating

Overeating is so easy to do, and it is becoming a way of life for lots of people. Some see this as an addiction or a disease. Overeaters Anonymous, for example, addresses the problem as an addiction. Physicians see it as an eating disorder. I see it differently. I see it as disordered eating, and while that seems like semantics it is not.

Overeating is often an unconscious act of eating too much and not really realizing that a lot of food was just consumed. How often do you grab for something to eat, only to look down a while later and realize that the full bag or carton or bowl is empty? You didnít even see or feel it happen. You donít even know why you ate it, because you werenít even hungry to start with Ė or maybe you were. Overeating can also occur because of an uncontrollable urge to binge, and frequently on simple carbohydrates (as in lots of pastries, ice cream, chocolate, pretzels, macaroni and cheese).

Many different things cause us to overeat, and most are not obvious. Iíll start with three common situations. The first is that you havenít eat much all day. Youíve skipped a meal and gone long hours without eating. Maybe you got hungry and nothing was available, or maybe you decided to ignore your hunger signals. By the time you get home you are famished. Does this sound familiar? Then you ate a bit before dinner, had a bit more than you needed at dinner and later had some more food. Or maybe you waited for dinner and stuffed yourself and forced in a bit of dessert. When you started eating you thought the food would feel good, but later you felt sick. A second scenario is you ate pretty well during the day, but still found yourself unsatisfied when dinner was over, even though you got full, and needed something sweet to top it off later. And a third situation is overeating every time you eat. These are all common experiences to many people. It doesnít make them addicts or ill or bad. There is another explanation.

Here are some reasons, and they donít start by looking at what is wrong with the behavior. It starts by looking at where the behavior stems from.

In the first scenario, skipping meals or going for long periods without food leaves the body without the calories (or fuel) that it needs to support its metabolism (the rate the body burns calories). So you are practically driven by your body to overeat, and specifically to eat simple carbohydrates that break down quickly into fuel. It is a given Ė if you are ravenous when you start to eat, you will exceed your fullness.

In addition, it is at night that the emotions of the day try to bubble to the surface, and food is a way to keep the emotions down. We all have emotions, including frustration, irritation, anger, stress, emptiness, loneliness, sadness, and excitement. We are good at keeping them in check during the day, and then at night we use food as a way to deal with these feelings Ė feelings we donít even know we are having. This is called emotional eating Ė when we use food to cope with emotions.

In the second scenario, the reason could be emotional eating. It could also be because of your beliefs. It could be your belief that dessert always follows a meal, or a plate of food is always finished off no matter how full you feel. And then you have to have dessert because it is what happens after dinner.

In the third situation, constant overeating can be attributed to only eating carbohydrates, because it is hard to tell when fullness occurs and carbohydrates drive up blood sugar levels, which drive up cravings. It can also be because of emotional eating, or because fullness has become such a normal feeling you donít even realize how it feels to stop before you get full. It never occurred to you.

I have seen all of these and more explanations, and each of them is easy to address with a method of becoming mindful of hunger levels, of understanding emotional eating and balancing food choices to minimize high carbohydrate meals and snacks. This is not to say that some people donít have addictions and disorders, but I believe that many overeaters are simply suffering from a lack of balanced and emotional eating knowledge and tools.

Be mindful as you eat this week, and see if you are overeating for any of the reasons I explained. If so, donít judge yourself. Guilt or shame will only lead you to eat more. Simply observe and say to yourself ďisnít that interestingĒ.

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What Kind of Eater Are You?

There are so many different reasons why we struggle with food, and it isn't black or white. Many of the reasons stem from what we've been told, the way we've been raised and the way we feel on a given day. It is liberating to know that the struggle isn't just because we are bad when it comes to eating well.

In the book on Intuitive Eating, written by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, they recognized that there are many types of eaters, and most of us are dealing with a combination of these types. I have found this to be true in my own work, and I'll start with the most common ones that I see with people. They are the chaotic eater, unconscious eater and emotional eater.

A chaotic eater has no routine to their eating and has a tendency to skip meals, over schedule themselves and eat on the run. They really have no idea what they have just eaten or how much they've eaten. They just eat what is available and deal with food the next time it is available. They are completely out of touch with their eating habits and choices. Is this you? How can you be less chaotic this week?

An unconscious eater is similar to a chaotic eater. They are not tuned into what or how much they are eating, because they eat while doing other things - like working, reading, talking, driving, watching TV or cooking. They will eat whatever is available and have no idea when they are hungry or if they have exceeded their fullness level. Are you conscious of your hunger or fullness levels? Try paying attention to them this week.

An emotional eater uses food to cope with their feelings and they may not even realize they are doing this. What they do know is that they eat too much, often eating an entire package of something before they realize it. They are numb when they eat and feel powerless around food. Emotional eaters use food to avoid facing their feelings - even though they do not seem to feel anything. When was the last time you think you did this? Watch for emotional eating and see what you are feeling.

The next two types are often linked to how we were raised. These are the waste-not and refuse-not eaters.

The waste-not eater is someone who hates to see food go to waste and believes that it's a deal to get lots of food for their money. They will overeat when food is in abundance because they hate to see it wasted. What they don't realize is that by overeating it IS being wasted - literally. And it is going to cost them more money than they think they saved when their health is affected by overeating, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure and coronary artery disease. How often do you eat things for fear they will go to waste? The next time you feel this urge, consider the real cost.

The refuse-not eater is a person that can't refuse food. They can't say no when someone invites them to have food or encourages them to have more food than they need or want. They feel they have to eat for fear of disappointing or hurting the other person. As a result, they give that person power over how much food they eat. Did you eat something you didn't want over the holidays because you felt you needed to make someone else feel good? It is ok to say I've had enough, no thanks, or thank you but I'm full.

Then there are the restrictive eaters. These are people that are always going on the next diet or that follow a restricted eating plan with vigilance. The chronic dieter is constantly trying the latest diet, striving to lose a specific amount of weight, and creating new good and bad food lists they try to adhere to, but in the end they vacillate between under eating, over eating and bingeing. The careful eater scrutinizes labels and foods, weighs and measures all their food, writes every morsel down and tracks every gram against their narrow and very specific daily goals. For them there is little pleasure in eating. This was me for many years. Are you restrictive and struggling to enjoy your food? To gain a healthy view of food you may want to try intuitive eating.

An intuitive eater is conscious of their body's hunger signals. They eat to feel satisfied. They don't fear overeating - instead they trust themselves to eat exactly what they need and have no guilt about eating foods they enjoy. This type of eater is conscious of their food choices and tends to want foods that honor their health and are balanced to meet their physical requirements. How does this sound to you? People who try it say it is a way to achieve freedom with food while achieving healthy eating habits.

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Alice Greene is a lifestyle fitness and inspirations coach. She is the founder of Fit Beyond 40, creator of Help Yourself Today, Living Free Diabetes and is a radio show host. Visit the following web sites for additional information:,,, .

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Copyright 2006 by Alice Greene. All rights reserved.

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