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Binge Eating On Thanksgiving -- Are You in Denial?

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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we begin the long, tumultuous road to the holidays. We now give ourselves permission to indulge... or at least place ourselves in denial of our usual constraints.

For many people, Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. Not because it's the time for family or reflection of our blessings; it's because of the food, plain and simple. No other holiday is so embedded with the image of food. Think about it. I say, "Thanksgiving" and your first thought is a large roasted turkey... you know you thought about it just now -- don't try to deny it!

Whether this image has been ingrained in our psyche through media and advertising is irrelevant because we choose to accept it. I'm not saying that the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is a bad thing, but we need to put it in perspective. Perhaps I imagine a Norman Rockwell type of family gathering where everyone is giving thanks around the table.

My point is not to sound political, but to prepare the stage for the habits that I am about to call to your attention. You see, the reason we allow ourselves to develop these habits is because we've made this holiday all about the food. Therefore we give ourselves permission to indulge in these behaviors because it's "only once a year." But, who are we kidding? In reality, these eating habits last throughout the whole holiday season, well into the New Year.

So, here are some of those bad holiday habits. I'm certain they are very familiar to a lot of us. Now be careful, these actions can be merely holiday-related, or they can be warning signs of a future eating disorder. Which are you guilty of?

1. Finishing someone else's plate. By this I don't mean, "Can I try a bite of that?" I mean the proverbial "Are you going to finish that?" Sound familiar? This is one of the most common behaviors that I've seen in people that have, or will have, a weight problem. It starts off innocently enough, but can become a very serious habit, enabling you to eat in excess of 300 to 500 calories or more! It can even be a whole meal, depending on how much your partner eats. Maybe you don't do this, but I bet you will see a lot of people during the holiday who do... if you just watch.

2. Starving yourself all day so that you can eat more at dinnertime. This is justified as "preparation" for the marathon-eating event later in the day. You want to "make room" for the dinner. All this is going to do is give you a voracious appetite so you will overeat and likely do so very quickly. All that preparation and anticipation of Thanksgiving dinner, what good is it if you're only going to inhale the food in 10 to 15 minutes?

3. Going for seconds and even thirds. The faster you eat, the more helpings you will take until, hopefully at some point, you will feel satiety. Unfortunately when you do finally feel like you can't eat another bite... you will be uncomfortably full!

4. Eating until you are uncomfortably full. Unbuckle your pants and loosen your zipper. Congratulations, you have reached nirvana. I know this can happen to the best of us and likely will on Thanksgiving, but beware: This kind of behavior, if it occurs often, can be a warning sign for binge eating disorder.

Don't be dismayed; a little indulgence can happen to anyone during a holiday such as Thanksgiving. But regrets are the result of poor planning. Plan for the holidays and don't set into new habits. Just because it's holiday season doesn't mean that you have to eat with reckless abandon.

So, take some time to reflect on the real reason for the holidays: family and friends. Be thankful for what you have and merciful to those who don't have. We like to show our love to others with our food, but we can show this love more powerfully with words of compassion and kindness. Remember, it's really not about the food!

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