Overeating can trigger symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and it can also cause you to gain a couple extra unwanted pounds.  And now that the holiday season upon us, you may be thinking ahead to your holiday plans, sitting around a table with family (and eating) or hanging out with co-workers at your office party (and eating).  Will you have the willpower this year to make better decisions?  To be easier on your gut?

Stick to Your Diet As Best You Can

The holiday season is one of the most important times of the year to stick to a low-FODMAP diet if you have IBS.  Why?

  • Many people with sensitive guts can’t handle too much food or too many different foods at once in their digestive system.  The holidays are when people are most likely to overeat and overwork the digestive system
  • It’s the high-FODMAP foods that can trigger the most problems, and then overeating them can bring on an onslaught of symptoms, grief, and pain.
  • Even if options for foods low in FODMAPs at these gatherings may be limited, you could still overeat low-FODMAP foods.  Slow
  • Mounds of high-sugar foods are everywhere during the holiday season.  Limit these as sugar feeds on bad bacteria and serve as “fertilizer” for pathogenic microorganisms and yeast, causing them to rapidly multiply.

So why is it so hard to resist overeating at the holidays?

The answer is simple, says Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., a brain and cognitive scientist specialized in the psychology of eating:

“Willpower isn’t a dimension of personality, or character, it’s simply a cognitive function available to us in limited doses.”

In fact, as she points out in her upcoming book, Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free (Hay House, March 2017), research shows that we all have as little as 15 minutes of willpower at our disposal at any given time before it runs dry.  Her book is a great resource for anyone, and especially for those who have IBS or for emotional eaters, who feel powerless over their food cravings.

Avoid Overeating, Expand Your Willpower

It’s no surprise then that when there are temptations everywhere, we cave!  This is what Susan calls the “Willpower Gap.”

But there are ways to expand willpower to better manage holiday eating.  The key is to be aware of the Willpower Gap and plan accordingly so you don’t fall into it.

5 Steps to Curb Overeating

Plan ahead

Don’t leave yourself to make decisions in the moment when you’re tired, hungry or overwhelmed by the crowd.  Decide in advance what you will eat each day and when so you won’t be making food choices at times of day when your willpower is depleted. {Eat low-FODMAP foods ahead of time, or bring food with you, make your own dish or ask what’s on the menu.}

Eat regular meals.

When regular meals become part of the scaffolding of your life, it takes the burden off of willpower.  A schedule of eating three meals a day at regular mealtimes—breakfast, lunch, and dinner —not only helps eating the right things become automatic, but also passing up the wrong things in between. {Meal prep low-FODMAP meals ahead of time.  Avoid the stress of being hangry and not having what you need on hand.}

Reduce stress

Stress and the emotional regulation that go along with it taxes your willpower.  So wherever possible, modify or avoid the things that tap your resources.  Where it can’t be avoided just bringing awareness that an upcoming situation is going to deplete you — such as that dreaded political conversation with your dad’s aunt — can prevent your falling into the Willpower Gap. {Reducing stress when you have IBS can also reduce your symptoms of IBS and calm your mind.}

Get enough sleep

Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night. Sleep is a powerful willpower replenisher. {The same goes for better digestion.  You’ll also be less likely to eat late at night too.}

Practice an attitude of gratitude

Research shows that something as simple as expressing gratitude will replenish willpower.  Gratitude also helps shift the focus from what you want, or crave, to what you have. {Yes!}

Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. is a psychology professor, a brain and cognitive scientist, and an expert in the psychology of eating. She is President of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to sharing the psychology and neurology of sustainable weight loss and helping people achieve it.

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Looking for help on the low-FODMAP diet?  Ask me about my nutritional coaching services by contacting me here.

cropped-bec_6825.jpgBe good to yourself and your gut!

Colleen Francioli

Certified Nutritionist Consultant
Founder FODMAP Life & BonCalme