03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Avoid Binge Eating During The Holidays

We enter the holiday season with unreal expectations of gladness, blazing fires and ruddy cheeks. But when it doesn't turn out that way, we often turn to-yup, you guessed it -- food.

The most painful thing about using food to comfort ourselves during the holidays (or any other time) is that it is only a temporary solution. After the food is gone, whatever you ate about is still there. And, to make matters worse, you now feel fat or stuffed or spacey as well as lonely, sad, or angry. So turning to food only compounds the original problem by giving you another problem -- your weight -- to deal with.

For many years, I led one-day holiday workshops, listening to people talk about their fears, their expectations, their joys during the holiday season. I heard what triggered their descent into binging and what helped them out of it. And what I saw again and again is that as tempting as it is to eat 20 butter cookies shaped like Christmas trees when you are lonely, food is most pleasurable, delicious, satisfying when you are hungry. In every other situation, there is always something besides eating that will help you, comfort you, give you peace, which is after all, the true message of the holidays.

So here's what my students taught me about making it through the holidays (note: it takes a commitment to do these things. You have to want to to be sane more than you want to eat.)

(1) Wear clothes with pockets. Put interesting things in them (rocks, crystals, and, um, any precious stones like sapphires or diamonds that are just laying around) so that you have something to do with your hands besides eat.

(2) When you go to a party, take only three kinds of food on your plate. Go to a relatively quiet place and let yourself really really taste what's on your plate. Play with it. Eat it in different orders. Mush it around in your mouth. Notice how one food explodes on your tongue and another takes a while to be fully tasted. Have fun with the food when you are hungry. Get every last ounce of pleasure out of it -- and then, if you are still hungry, go back for three more foods. Follow the same instructions. When your body has had enough food, remind yourself that you can eat again when you get hungry.

(3) Then, find another kind of nourishment, another kind of food. Another way to give yourself
pleasure. Talk to someone. Listen to someone. Play the piano. Look at the night sky. Pray.

Remember that food is everywhere, all the time, not just on our plates. Food for the eyes, for the senses, for the heart.

One last thing: May there be peace on earth; it's the only planet with egg nog.