7 tips to master emotional eating and the holidays

How is your emotional eating and the holidays going this year?

It ‘s a tricky time: emotions run high, both good and challenging:

  • Stress over family and money 
  • Loneliness 
  • Sympathy 
  • Empathy 
  • Joy 
  • Gratefulness 
  • Abundance 
  • … and more. 

Any, many, or all, of these might make you want to eat. Combine this with the general over-abundant and indulgent nature of all the celebrations going on over the November-December-January season and it’s a total mine-field for an emotional eater.

Here’re 7 ways to make it through with your body, sanity, and tummy intact.

Emotional eating and the holidays... the holiday season is a total mine-field for an emotional eater. Here's 7 easy ways to do better this year.

Seasonal Triggers

Holidays are a very stressful time, and you may eat emotionally to deal with that. I, on the other hand, eat to celebrate – and while that sounds like it is a more positive experience, it can leave me just as sick, guilty, and shamed as if it’d been driven by loneliness or anxiety.

It’s emotional eating and the holidays.

This season is just a trigger for everyone. Emotional eating is next to unavoidable. But, this season, you can change that.

Here are 7 thoughts and practices to help get you through this emotionally-packed time and out the other side without too many instances of

“I’m so ashamed – I know better than that”
“I do this every year. When will I learn?”
“I feel so ill. Why do I do this?”

What’s an emotional eater to do?

First off – rules and deprivation won’t work. You’ll either be breaking your rules and feel like crap… or not breaking your rules and feeling like crap. So, get your ‘moderation’ on and follow some of these tips for a happy, balanced relationship with food these holidays.

1. Start your New Year’s resolution early.

You and I both know it’s going to be something to do with being healthier or losing weight. Start now – get a head start and use the momentum to see you through the worst of the seasons excess. Don’t use it as a recovery tactic, but a preemptive move on your part to take care of yourself.

2. Keep moving.

Yes, it’s cold in some place. Yes, your schedule will be disrupted by family visits, late night parties, and even by travel. But, brainstorm some exercises you love AND that can fit around a crazy shifting schedule. So, exercises classes might be out, but walks, at-home yoga videos, dancing, and actively playing with kids are all great ways to keep moving. Why do this? Mindful, joyful movement really helps you connect with your body, and process your emotions – making everything easier and clearer.

3. Forgive yourself.

If you do over-eat, binge, or whatever it is you do with food, beating yourself up or having a ‘why me’ mentality’ isn’t going to help. The shame you feel, or the guilt, will just drive emotions even higher, almost guaranteeing you continue to cycle through the eat-shame-eat house of horrors. Instead – accept it and move on. And plan your next healthy behavior.

4. Enjoy it!

Sometimes, in all the stress, it’s easy to forget to enjoy yourself. Whatever you do choose to eat, try to do it with a focus on pleasure, relaxation, and love.

5.Check in with yourself.

It’s probably the hardest time to start a mindful eating practice. But, you can give it a go. However, with all the people talking and things going while you’re eating at this time of year, it’s going to be tough. I think a better solution is to be mindful of portion sizes. Give yourself that cue of having an empty plate to check in with yourself and see if you really want more to eat or drink.

6. Protein for breakfast.

For many people (not all, mind you) a breakfast with protein can set you up for a more balanced day and help you make better decisions.

7. Plan ahead.

Whatever the emotional reason is for your eating – try putting a plan in place for satisfying the release or comforting of that feeling before it happens.

If your trigger around this time is loneliness, make a list of friends to call, Christmas cards to write, episodes of ‘Friends’ to watch, or whatever gets you feeling connected. If it’s stress, brainstorm some simple coping techniques – you could even theme them for the holidays – every tried a Christmas tree meditation? Or deep breathing with the smell of pine? If, like me, your trigger is a feeling or desire to celebrate fully, find some other ways to do it. Can you dance, hug, sing, create something, make homemade gifts… anything that gets you feeling abundant.

Emotional eating and the holidays... the holiday season is a total mine-field for an emotional eater. Here's 7 easy ways to do better this year.

Let’s tie it up with a ribbon…

It’s the holiday season. We all want to feel good, look good, and be good – sometimes desperately. So, it’s imperative that you come at this from a place of kindness, love, and warmth. You want to feel filled up, loved up, and revved up to rock your holidays – and no one ever got those things from guilt, shame, or restriction.

As emotional eating Queen Geneen Roth says in this awesome article for Prevention Magazine, “[It’s never] really about food but about how we use it to temporarily help ourselves cope. After the food is gone, whatever causes holiday overeating is still there. Food is only pleasurable, only delicious, only satisfying when you are hungry. In every other situation, something besides eating will comfort you and give you peace.”

What else can you comfort yourself with? Tell us in the comments – how will you find comfort and peace this holiday season?

About Samantha

Hello! I'm Sam and I'm an Eating Psychology Coach. I work with women who struggle with emotional eating and weight loss to develop new strategies and lifestyles so they can stop using food to cope, lose weight, and eat happy.

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