Many people feel guilty for eating too much, or even dread stepping on the scales after the holidays.
Can overindulging on these special occasions have a negative impact on your health?
Truth is, occasional overeating is unlikely to have a long-term impact on your health – and here's why.
If you are of average weight and height, you would need to eat far more calories than you burn – probably around 3,500 calories (kcal) more than you usually eat – to gain half a kilogram.
This means, assuming your daily calorie intake is 2,000kcal, you would have to eat 5,500kcal just to gain 0.5kg in a day.
According to a recent study, most people do gain a little bit over the holiday season – on average, 0.6kg in America and 0.8kg in Germany over the 10-day Christmas period, and 0.5kg in Japan over Golden Week.
Even then, you might probably lose it again quite quickly once you return to your normal routine of eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly after the holiday period is over. This small weight gain is unlikely to have serious long-term health implications.
Try not to feel guilty after a couple of weeks' indulging. Instead, focus on the positive benefits and how much you enjoyed spending time with your family or friends.
Here are our suggestions for bouncing back after a binge:
Go for walks or bike rides over the holiday period – not only is it good exercise, but it's a fun way to spend more time with family or friends.
Research shows that walking helps to accelerate stomach emptying, which may relieve uncomfortable feelings of fullness or bloating caused by overeating. It can also help burn some of the additional calories you consumed from binge eating.
Walking also improved mood and reduces negative feelings due to the release of chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which can help protect against depression and anxiety.
Everything is good in moderation – even party food!
A balanced diet includes:
Essential nutrients in these foods will help your body to function better and boost your immune system.
Getting enough sleep at night after binge eating can help to fight off cravings the following day.
A lack of sleep may increase levels of two important hormones involved in hunger and appetite regulation, called ghrelin and leptin. This is why you may find yourself hungrier if you have not had sufficient sleep.
Aim to get 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night so that you don't have cravings during the day that may lead to more binge eating.
You may feel guilty after a day of binge eating and feel like you need to make amends by skimping on breakfast or lunch. However, starting your day with a hearty and healthy breakfast is actually the better way to get you back on track towards making continued healthy choices.
Try to have breakfast that consists of food that are high in protein and fibre. Fibre-rich fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains can be paired with a good source of protein for a well-rounded, nutritious meal.
It is also important to stick to a consistent eating pattern to avoid further episodes of binge eating.
Drinking water has numerous benefits and among them are helping to maximise weight loss and keeping appetite under control.
Studies have shown that people who drank water before a meal consumed lower amounts of calories compared with those who did not. Increasing your water intake also helps to increase metabolism to burn off extra calories.
Practicing yoga consistently has been found to help those who suffer from binge eating disorder. Those who practiced weekly yoga reported reductions in binge eating and increase in physical activity.
Yoga also has positive effects on mood that prevents emotional eating and may help reduce anxiety, stress and depression.
You can never go wrong with vegetables! Loading up on veggies after a binge-eating session helps to prevent overeating.
Vegetables are high in fibre, which moves slowly through the gastrointestinal tract and helps promote feelings of fullness. People who increased their fibre intake have been found to consume fewer calories and lose more weight. They also reported feeling less hungry than those who didn't eat as much vegetables.
A good rule of thumb is to fill at least half your plate with veggies at each meal.
Skipping meals after binge eating may actually enhance your cravings and increase the likelihood of another binge.
Studies show that eating consistently every day helps to sustain feelings of fullness throughout the day and even increased fat burning.
Mindful eating means you pay close attention to the way you feel while you eat, instead of just mindlessly putting food into your mouth.
This practice has been shown to reduce incidences of binge eating and emotional eating. Mindful eating also helps people to reduce their food intake later in the day.
You can start practicing mindful eating by minimising external distractions and trying to eat and enjoy your food slowly. Recognise when you're feeling full so you know when to stop eating.
Eating more protein-rich foods helps to regulate your hunger signals, appetite and feelings of fullness through their effects on hormones.
Increasing protein intake was also found to reduce daily calorie intake, which further led to decreases in body weight and fat mass.
Include good sources of protein such as meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds and dairy products into each meal. You can also have them as snacks throughout the day.
After the holiday season ends, try and maintain this balanced diet and limit your intake of processed or overly sugary foods such as fast food and fizzy drinks.
If you want help with your eating habits or maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle, you can consult a dietitian.