Each holiday, I read online posts from people concerned about overeating during this holiday. There is a worry about not being able to say no to those yummy goodies and treats.
Holidays can be a particular struggle for those with eating issues.
Maybe you have lost weight and don’t want to go backwards, or you are worried about eating the right foods and holiday food definitely seem like “bad” foods. I am not a dietician or a nutritionist, so I cannot talk to you about calories associated with holiday foods. As a counselor and motivational coach, I do know there are a lot of emotions that get triggered on holidays that can affect your food choices. Family issues may drive feelings of anger or loss. Personal issues may drive feelings of loneliness or fear. There is also the simple fact that there is a lot of food staring at you and you feel like you have to just go for it.
I have found there are tricks to handle emotions that might surface over the holidays. Here are some suggestions to help you keep a little more centered at the holiday meal.
First it can be helpful to identify the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.
Take a deep breath and check in with yourself to notice what is going on. Are you feeling physical hunger? Often people go to a holiday meal famished and overeat because they are too physically hungry. Being overly hungry is a strategy for failure for someone who has a tendency to binge eat. Honor your hunger and feed yourself when you are physically hungry. Not letting yourself get overly hungry is such a great strategy for the holidays (and any other time).
If you find you are not physically hungry, but still want to eat, consider that you are emotionally hungry. Emotional hunger comes from transferring feelings (sad, lonely, anxious) onto the thought of hunger. This is not true physical hunger. Acknowledge to yourself that you are not physically hungry and wonder to yourself what might be going on. Possibly you feel lonely or hurt and are misinterpreting those as physical hunger. Ask yourself what you need to do to address the feeling. Some options are:
- Take a short walk to get away from a situation and strategize better options.
- Take a deep breath to regroup and center yourself.
- Talk to a supportive person about your feelings.
These strategies will slow you down to help you determine if you are physically hungry or emotionally hungry. If you are physically hungry- then eat. If you are emotionally hungry- take care of that emotion. These suggestions work for those who binge eat only at the holiday time and for those who binge eat more frequently.
I would love to hear your strategies. What do you do to end holiday overeating? You can post them below.
Kim McLaughlin, MA is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in helping people with eating issues and eating disorders. If you are concerned that about overeating, weight or your use of food in general please contact her here. Sign up for her FREE Top Tips to End Emotional Eating here. Check out her website at www.FeedYourSoulTherapy.com.