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7 Tips to Avoid Stress Eating this Holiday Season


Emotional eating is all too common during the holiday season—and for good reason! Between the shopping, planning, and family visits, stress is bound to creep up at some point.

Unfortunately, all this emotional eating can throw a wrench in weight management. It can also keep you from feeling like your most energetic, healthy self!

Of course, stress or emotional eating can occur anytime, not just during the holidays.

Empowerment coach for girls and women, Frannie Foltz, knows firsthand how the cycle of emotional eating can impact your life. “For years, emotional eating held me captive,” says Foltz. “My childhood was riddled with abuse; as a result, fear, shame, and loneliness lead me to seek comfort in food. Food was reliable, readily available, and a legal drug of choice to numb my pain. And I was the one in control of how much I ate, when, and where. By 21, I tipped the scales at 294 pounds.”

While many people think the cycle of emotional eating can be broken by just willing themselves to stop reaching for junk food, it’s important to understand that the root cause is, by definition, emotional

Here, we’ll look at the definition of emotional eating and seven ways to break the cycle.

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Emotional eating is a form of disordered eating that involves consuming large quantities of food—usually comfort or junk foods—to cope with difficult emotions.

It is a highly common cycle that most people have fallen into at some point in their lives.

Firstly, it’s important to understand why we eat emotionally. The main reason is that food has a true physiological effect on our mood—whether it’s a temporary blood-sugar increase from carbs or a spike in serotonin thanks to chocolate or sweets.

Not only that, but many of us are taught as children that sweets or treats are “rewards” for good behavior.

Why Do We Do It?

We eat emotionally because it’s a maladaptive coping mechanism for getting what we really want: love, security, or comfort.

While some people struggle with emotional eating during specific circumstances—maybe a stressful week, a frustrating meeting, or a bad breakup—others spend years of their lives battling the constant urge to heal deep, long-lasting emotional wounds with food. 

The good news? There are ways to break the emotional eating cycle and heal your physical and mental health.

The following are 7 ways to break the pattern of emotional eating and get your mind and body back on a healthy track.

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Whenever you reach for junk or comfort foods, take a five second pause and ask yourself: “How am I feeling?”

If you feel stressed, angry, bored, lonely, or low, give yourself a moment to pause. Write down three healthy ways you can make yourself feel better, and do one of those things before you eat.

This helps break the pattern of (even subconsciously) numbing your pain with food.

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Once you’ve realized that you may be using food to cope with a specific emotion, identify the event or events that trigger the emotion.

It could be something from that day, or even a deep wound from childhood. This helps you be aware and then prepare you for when you may be confronted with the trigger again. For Foltz, holidays were a major trigger she identified.

“At every holiday fathering, my great aunt Mary would ask, ‘Why aren’t you married yet? What are you doing wrong?’ Knowing I was going to see her at the next holiday allowed me to prepare mentally and even script a response beforehand.”

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Surround yourself with friends who like to be active and who can support you when you have “one of those days.”

Call a friend and ask her to join you for a walk, a barre class or anything where you can engage with one another and find comfort in a healthy way instead of reaching for the chips.

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Foltz suggests creating a mantra you repeat daily, not just when triggered.

“Wallpaper your world with it. Post-it to your makeup mirror, save it as a screensaver on your phone, write a note card and clip it to your sun visor in your car. You will begin to believe your affirmation, which will manifest into living it.”

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Usually, emotional eating occurs when we are seeking comfort, love, or security.

Try making a list of “healthy comforts.” It can include things as simple as taking a hot bubble bath, journaling, calling a friend, going for a walk, or listening to music.

Taking care of yourself is all about identifying how you can get your needs met in healthy ways. View these methods of self-care as ways to nurture and comfort yourself without food.

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It sounds simple, but if there are food items you’re more likely to binge on when emotional eating (potato chips, cake, cookies, etc) then do not buy them or keep them in your house.

Think of it as “out of sight, out of mind.” If these items aren’t around, you can’t be tempted to indulge.

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Emotional eating can often occur at night after dinner, when we can’t quite satiate what’s bothering us.

So, after dinner, make it a point to walk out of the kitchen. Leaving the room will help change your mindset, and it gives you the opportunity to find something else to do.

When you become more aware of the emotions behind your excessive or uncontrolled eating binges, you can start to break the cycle of shame and overeating.

“The two most common emotions that drive decisions are love and fear,” Foltz reflects. “Give yourself permission to choose love and you will experience peace and smaller jeans, too!”

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It’s hard to find the best way to quit sugar when it’s in so many of our foods! That’s why it’s important to cut back in a smart, sustainable way since doing it cold turkey can be pretty jarring for your body.

Here, we’ll take a look at some of the sugar basics, why you crave it, and how to quit sugar without making yourself totally miserable.

Sugar Detox: How To Quit Sugar In 6 Steps

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Yoga teaches you to find the calm within your breathing. It teaches you how to find a position (an “asana”) and stay in the moment—the here and now. It helps you harness an inner calm no matter what is happening around you or your anxieties for the future.

These poses will help ease your anxiety and give you relief!

Yoga For Anxiety: 6 Best Poses To Give You Relief

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Let’s get one thing straight: being healthy isn’t just about the number on your scale. There are tons of other factors that affect your health besides your weight, and every one is built differently.

However, if being overweight is affecting your day-to-day life, sometimes weight loss is the goal. Unfortunately, even if you know how to lose weight, finding the inspiration for weight loss and motivation to actually make those healthier choices can be another story. 

Whether you’ve been in a rut for a few months or many years, we’ll help you find the weight loss motivation you need to finally make a change.

Inspiration For Weight Loss – 12 Inspiring Tips to Get You Motivated

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