Beat the holiday hangover

This festive time of year offers many reasons to eat and drink: there is stress, there are parties, there are visitors – and there are stressful party visitors.

Indulging is part of the fun, but comfort food and Southern Comfort aren’t always comfortable in the morning.

This quick guide isn’t about guilt; it’s about avoiding hangovers and heartburn, which are as undesirable as a lump of coal in your stocking.

Follow a few of these tips through Christmas and you’ll ensure your pants still fit on New Year’s Day. If they don’t, oh well, that’s why we have New Year’s resolutions.


During times of stress, food can provide a sense of escape. Food can be a reward for accomplishing undesired tasks. Food can be a distraction from all the chaos going on around you.

When food is satiating your emotions rather than your hunger, follow these steps to lessen the impact of your emotions on your eating.

1. Ask yourself “Am I really hungry?” If you answer yes, honor your hunger and eat a nutritious meal or snack. If you answer no, proceed to the following steps.

2. Ask yourself “What am I feeling?” Try using a journal (or Facebook), or voice your feelings to a friend

3. Ask yourself “What do I need?” Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed and need help with your to-do list. Perhaps you are feeling tired and just need a good night’s sleep. Whatever you need, address it head-on, without using food as a coping mechanism.

4. Ask others “Would you please ...” Once you recognize what it is that you need, speak up and ask others for help. If you simply need some time to yourself, ask others to honor your need and assist you with accomplishing other tasks that need to be completed.

During this potentially stressful time of year, seek to feed your hunger and not your emotions.

Develop a game plan

Whether you’re the host or someone else is in charge, take a thoughtful approach to the temptations on the table. Here are 11 tips to help you plot your strategy.

When you’re the host:

1. When planning your party menu, incorporate a few healthful holiday recipes – search the Internet for “healthy holiday recipes.” You don’t have to tell anybody.

2. If others want to help, send them the healthful recipes that you have chosen and ask them to bring those. If others wish to help out with the meal, suggest a side dish such as whole-grain rolls, veggies with hummus or a mandarin orange salad. If you’re already overflowing with food, tell your guests to bring nonfood items like holiday music, candles, games, or puzzles.

Party time:

1. Station yourself away from the food.

2. Watch the liquid calories.

3. Use a smaller plate or glass.

4. Don’t hesitate to sample a bit of everything, but take smaller portions.

Dinner is served:

1. Watch the added fat, like butter, gravy and salad dressing.

2. Be selective and pass on the foods you can eat any day of the year.

3. Drink water between bites.

4. Check in with your stomach: Are you hungry, full, neutral?

5. Wait 20 minutes before you go for seconds.

The bottom line

Be realistic around the holidays and allow for the occasional sweet or treat. Aim for weight maintenance rather than weight loss.

Try to take the long view and be an outcome thinker, making choices that support your desired outcomes

If you enjoy the festivities in moderation, you can eat, drink and still be merry in the morning.

Claire Kjeld is a registered dietitian with MultiCare’s Center for Healthy Living.

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