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Holiday Stress Eating

By: Kristi Goode

It's common knowledge that being stressed makes it difficult to achieve your health and fitness goals. And with the holidays approaching, stress eating can sneak up more quickly than usual.

When life gets chaotic, we may seek comfort food. But honestly, those meals might cause systemic inflammation or blood-sugar imbalances, which may only add to our holiday stress and worry. Choosing more clean, minimally processed, and nutrient dense foods can provide a significant emotional and immune boost!

What exactly is stress? A general definition for stress and your body, according to, is, “Stress is an emotional or physical sensation that can be triggered by any occurrence or thought that makes you feel worried, angry, or frustrated. It’s your body's response to a demand or stimulus.”

Stress isn't something that occurs to you. Stress is how you react to the obstacles you are confronted with daily, and it can be more overwhelming during the holidays. Daily pressures such as work, raising children, managing money, house chores, the holidays, and even diet and exercise, can either leave you feeling ready to take on the world or leave you hiding under a blanket on the couch!

Stress affects each of us differently turning many people to mindless snacking, or stress eating. Even though I believe that life should be fun and that you shouldn't limit yourself from doing things you enjoy, it can be beneficial to go into the holidays with a plan in place to keep your health on track.

One way to create a plan to help with stress eating is to ask yourself a few questions. Especially when you start to notice your heading to the pantry, candy jar, or continuously nibbling on the plate of cookies your neighbor dropped off is:

  1. Am I physically hungry?

  2. What are my thoughts? Am I eating to cope?

  3. Am I angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, excited? Am I eating for emotion?

Another tip I love to share with my clients is to pause, notice (awareness), and write it down. Simply “pausing” can be extremely powerful and interrupt the behavior (stress eating). This gives you time to be aware and start asking yourself the questions below. Writing down (on a piece of paper) or journaling events in your current daily routine that could possibly be leading to stress eating, can be very beneficial in pinpointing “why” you’re eating.

1. Pause & write down those physical & emotional feelings that could be triggering the eating.

2. Notice how you are feeling both physically & emotionally before eating and write it down.

3. Notice how you are feeling both physically & emotionally after eating and write it down.

A few last tips to help curb the holiday stress eating while at events or gatherings is to go into it with a plan. Decide, set a goal or intention, and plan. For example, if you find yourself invited to several holiday events or gatherings you can plan in advance:

  1. Decide if you are going to have a cookie or dessert in advance.

  2. After making an intentional choice, decide if you are going to have one piece or two.

  3. Once you’ve decided, made an intentional choice, then you can plan to implement it at your next event.

Using these tips will help you navigate the holiday season with more ease. It’s a stressful time for all in different ways. It will be common to have setbacks as you work on learning your triggers. This is what learning is all about, and it's the only way to recognize your stress eating habits in the long run. Things may change slightly each day as you’re faced with different obstacles and stressful situations. Just remember to take it day by day and celebrate when you find other ways to manage daily and holiday stressors.

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