Don’t Let the Food Win: Tips to kick emotional eating during the holidays

The holiday season can be great—it can be full of happy moments, celebrating, love, and cherished family time. But, it can also bring rise to unpleasant feelings of loss, regret, depression, or being overwhelmed. If you are an emotional eater the holiday season can be a big trigger especially with the abundance of savory and sweet options.

counseling lancaster, pa

Emotional eaters turn to food to numb their feelings—and many times without even realizing it they find themselves mindlessly nibbling during moments of stress. The problem tends to be exaggerated during this season when food is plentiful, and options might be different from what is offered year round.

Kick the habit

Here are some tips to help keep emotional eating at bay during the holiday season:

1.) Don’t deprive yourself: Rather than feeling like you should have as much of a “once-a-year” food as you can because it is only around temporarily, make it a point to prepare that dish a few times a year. Allow yourself a little of that special treat at a time but acknowledge that once you have had it you are done.

2.) Work on mindfulness: Ask yourself before you go to the fridge or the cupboard—do you feel physically hungry? Why are you searching for food? What are you feeling? Understand this might be an emotional response and instead face your feelings rather than drowning them in food. If it helps put a sticky note on your fridge or cupboard that says—“are you hungry?”

3.) Don’t shame yourself: We all do it. If you lose control one night and end up eating more than your share of treats, the worst thing you can do is make yourself feel bad about it. Instead accept it, understand what happened, and learn from it. Bringing up more unpleasant feelings is only going to hinder your progress.

4.) Let go, and forgive: Whatever is ailing you during this time of the year needs to be faced. Maybe you need to forgive a family member for something in the past. Maybe you need to forgive yourself.

5.) Replace eating with something else: If you are feeling overwhelmed, or depressed call a friend. Talk it out. Or, go for a run. Get your body moving and you will feel better. You can also try writing it down. What is really going on? Journal and work through it.

6.) Put your brain to work: Remove your focus from food and instead do a crossword puzzle, or read a book. Make a to-do list of all the things you need to get done this holiday season and begin working on them.

7.)Focus on eating healthy on a schedule: You can eliminate mindless eating if you tell yourself you will only eat during breakfast, lunch, and dinner and plan those meals ahead of time. Eating more vegetables and healthy fats helps reduce cravings for sugary, carb-heavy options.

If you find you need some more guidance on conquering your emotional eating, we are here to help. Find a counselor or psychologist to talk your emotions through and learn some healthy coping mechanisms.

Jennifer Collins, PsyD

Author: Jennifer Collins, PsyD

Jennifer is a licensed clinical psychologist that has been in the mental health field for over 15 years. She works with issues related to infertility and the use of assisted reproduction. She also teaches behavioral management of ADHD, and works with individuals who have unhealthy relationships with food.