Why do we binge eat during the holidays?

Enlightened Desserts Image Gallery Even Santa is guilty of bingeing on cookies during the holidays. Check out these enlightened desserts pictures.

As you sit post-holiday meal, slumped in your chair all bloated and listless, the only words running through your head are "Why did I eat so much?" But you know the answer is that food comas are about as common as booze hangovers during the holidays. It doesn't help that as humans, we are hard wired toward binge eating. Our primal ancestors endured long periods with no food, so once they found it, they would eat everything they could get their hands on. Binge eating is a documented eating disorder, but for most of us, it mainly takes hold during the holiday season. Knowing your triggers can help you minimize the damage, so here are the main reasons that we binge eat during the holidays.

Everyone Else is Doing It

There's nothing like the collective consciousness of a festive group of people imbibing on good food and drink to draw you right up to the table and start mainlining hors d'oeuvres. It's no secret why the kitchen is the most popular room at a party. Just as misery loves company, so does indulgence. You can step out of a yoga class full of good health and swearing off fattening foods for a lifetime, which lasts right up until your best friend waves her decadent brownie under your nose.


Opportunity Abounds

Opportunity Abounds

The holiday season, which starts around Thanksgiving and takes us through Christmas and into the New Year, seems like a marathon of weaving through miles of cookies, pies, candies and cakes that are busting out of every crevice. Even the best diet disciplinarian can be kneecapped by a sweet tooth when constantly surrounded by the enemy. Add alcohol to the equation, and you're twice as likely to camp out next to the cheese and crackers to absorb some of the effects. Trying to diet during this time can make it even worse. When your caloric intake goes below the amount that's normal, your body contacts your brain saying, "time to eat!" And if this happens when you're inconveniently located next to plates of starches and sweets, you're probably going to get overruled. The best thing you can do for yourself is to never go to a party hungry, so be sure to fill up on a healthy snack before heading out the door.

Second that Emotion

Emotional eating is a big cause of holiday bingeing. Holidays are supposed to be times of carefree joy, full of vacation days, couch time and thankfulness to be together with our loved ones. But let's face it, often the holidays bring just as much stress, loneliness and boredom as they do good times and laughter. Food is often used as a coping mechanism for stress and depression. But feeling festive can also drive recreational eating, especially if you have the "I've been good all year, so why not?" attitude. Once you've blown it, it's human nature to think you might as well just keep going. You can always get back on track tomorrow.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • "10 High Calorie Holiday Foods to Watch Out For." Thedietchannel.com, December 12, 2007. http://www.thedietchannel.com/10-high-calorie-holiday-foods
  • Barke, Sheri. 10 Eating Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season. Ucla.edu, 2002.http://www.snac.ucla.edu/pages/Resources/Handouts/HO.Holiday%20eating.htm
  • Craighead, Linda. "Holiday Binge Eating." Colorado.edu, December, 2004.http://www.colorado.edu/news/broadcast/downloads/2004/dec04/cu1204-lc.doc.
  • Skarnulis, Leanna. "Stop Me Before I Binge Again!" medicine.net, December 4, 2006.http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55827
  • "To eat or not to eat - Binge eating during Christmas?" whatsonxiamen.com, December 2008.http://www.whatsonxiamen.com/news_msg.php?titleid=4411