It starts in late September.
As soon as the school supplies are put away, the Halloween candy comes out, and it’s nearly impossible to walk down a grocery store aisle without seeing a bag of miniature Snickers.
Everyone is tempted, but for people who have eating disorders and struggle to maintain a healthy weight, the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas trifecta is particularly difficult.
Some people who struggle with compulsive eating belong to Overeaters Anonymous, a support group based on the 12 steps and 12 traditions on which Acoholic Anonymous is based. The group is not just about weight loss or gain, obesity or diets, according to its website.
Rather, it offers “physical, emotional and spiritual recovery for those who suffer from compulsive eating.”
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, the group stresses anonymity. And because all people are different, no one should represent his or her story as the one true way.
The Gazette spoke to one longtime group member—who didn’t want her name published—about how she approaches the excesses of the holidays.
The woman said people have different experiences with food, dieting and what works for them.
“We’re not professionals,” the woman said of the Overeaters Anonymous group. “We offer peer support.”
For some, the holidays intensify the struggle against overeating.
“All celebrations revolve around food,” the woman said.
Almost every checkout counter, whether it’s in a gas station or a big-box store, is lined with candy.
“For some people, drive-thrus are a problem,” she said.
Drive-thru restaurant lines are anonymous, convenient and inexpensive, and no one will notice if you go through more than one.
The woman said many people use mental tricks to justify their overeating, such as, “I’ve had a bad day and I deserve this” or “I’ve already blown my diet with that piece of cake at lunch, so it doesn’t matter.”
She has tried to turn some of those tricks on their heads, and that’s especially helpful during the holidays.
- Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t have the stuff that temps you in the house—or at least not where it’s immediately visible.
“Sometimes I clean out my pantry, and ECHO gets those donations,” the woman said.
Other times she has removed items and put them in the freezer.
- Eliminate false starts. Many people have a food they can’t eat in moderation. Brownies, bread, pasta or a specific candy are common culprits.
“One bite is too much, and the whole package is not enough,” she said with a laugh.
Don’t tell yourself you’ll exercise moderation just this once. That’s probably not going to happen.
- When attending holiday gatherings, bring a healthy alternative or eat in advance. A fruit or veggie tray or other item you know you can eat are good alternatives, she said. Otherwise, eating in advance will make the party buffet less tempting.
- Think of leftovers. At restaurants, ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal.
“How many restaurants actually serve you the correct portions?” she asked.
The box will keep you mindful of what you want to eat.
- Make connections.
“Many of us are eating food because we don’t want to deal with our feelings or emotions,” the woman said. “Try to find a friend to talk with.”
Navigate around the edges. The healthiest and least-processed foods usually are located on the outer perimeter of the grocery store, the woman said. That’s where you’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, fish and dairy.