Holiday Stress: I Can’t Believe I Ate That Much!

by Doc Orman, M.D.

 Well, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and millions of people are looking back on the events of the past 24 hours with mixed feelings of joy and possibly some regret.

Joy for being with friends and family, having a couple of days off of work, and sharing in a scrumptious, plentiful holiday meal.

The regret comes in when we look back with remorse and think “I can’t believe I ate that much food!”  There’s just something about the holidays that causes us to abandon all self-control when it comes to overeating (and sometimes overdrinking) which we then beat ourselves up for the very next day.


It’s easy to look back on some piece of your recent behavior and then judge yourself negatively.  Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy in this regard.

Beating yourself up for whatever you may have done in the past is a very good way to generate lots of stress.  It’s also very common, while at the same time being totally unnecessary.  

Maybe we think that by having such regrets, and by forcing ourselves to feel the remorse, we’ll be less likely to commit the same “offense” in the future.  But does this really work?  Well, sometimes yes, but most of the time no.  We just keep repeating the same behavior patterns, over and over again, each time heaping additional layers of self-recrimination and self-flagellation on top of an already undesirable situation.

What Can We Do?

I must admit that I’ve been guilty of these two behavior patterns—overeating and then feeling bad about it—many times in the past.  And I’ll probably repeat them again at times in the future.

But I’ve also had holidays where I did exercise great personal control and successfully resisted the temptation to overeat along with the crowd. Regardless of how I perform at the dinner table (or anywhere else, for that matter), the moment I notice that I am beating myself up, I stop it immediately.  Once something is in the past, there’s little to be gained, in my opinion, from endless self-recrimination.

Yes, we certainly can learn from our past behaviors and vow to improve things going forward.  But there is no reason to add self-generated insults to “injury,” since you can plan your future behaviors with or without them.  There’s no truth to the rumor that beating yourself up makes a hoot of difference in your future performance.

So, the next time you catch yourself engaging in self-recrimination for something you did in the past, let the past be in the past and turn your attention to creating your new future.  While the tendency to beat yourself up may indeed be automatic, like any bad habit, the minute you notice you’re doing this, you do have the power to interrupt the activity.

Here’s a link to my free holiday stress relief e-book on Facebook.

Here’s a link to some additional holiday stress relief information from Dr. Andrew Weil. 



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