Holiday Stress and Stress Eating
Hello there and I hope that you are enjoying this holiday season!!
The holidays are a time of considerable stress to a lot of people. Many of my patients tell me that they overeat or make the wrong food choices when they are stressed out. This invariably happens more during the holidays when we are wondering if we will get along with the in-laws, if estranged Uncle Johnny will cause a fight this year, or how we are going to pay for all of the holiday bills.
Unfortunately, stress eating can be the worst because we not only overeat, but we make the wrong food choices. We tend to gravitate towards comfort foods and may consume more sugar, pasta, wheat and bread. It doesn’t help that most people tend to whip out their best cookie and cake recipes during the holidays as well.
So, how can we avoid packing on the pounds PLUS feel energized and vibrant during the holidays?
The first step is always awareness. Just having the awareness that we are stressed goes a long way. We can then be mindful of the things we are doing to handle the stress. Awareness is as simple as acknowledging that you are feeling anxious or stressed out.
Another technique to developing more mindfulness around eating is asking yourself a few questions whenever you are reaching for snacks or food. Ask yourself, “Am I really feeling hungry?.. or What am I feeling right now.” One of my favorite questions to ask is “What Am I Really Hungry For?” You might be surprised that your answer is peace, or comfort, or ease.
The next step is to have choices and alternatives that will nourish your body. Sometimes in the beginning, awareness isn’t enough. You still want the food. In that case, have healthy snack choices to grab. Try plantain chips for crunch or blend a frothy protein shake if you need something creamy and sweet.
Remove as much sugar and wheat as you can and replace it with protein and healthy fat- packed goodies. Take your favorite cookie recipe and swap out the flour for gluten free flour, swap out sugar for monk fruit and boost it with a scoop of protein powder.
Have on hand lots of chopped veggies with hummus or almond butter.
After that, it’s time to address the stress. Begin to say “no” to obligations that don’t feel good. It’s okay to let family and friends know that you are scaling back on shopping or partying. If you must purchase gifts, suggest a holiday secret santa or gift swap that allows everyone to shop for only 1 or 2 people.
If you are hosting dinner or a party, make it a potluck and allow others to help with the cooking. Invite a few good friends over to help you to clean and decorate and to help you with clean up. Better yet? Don’t host this year unless you feel absolutely ecstatic about it.
Make sure to cultivate some alone time as well. Take a nice hot bath, drink warm chamomile tea and listen to soothing music during the holidays. It’s a great time to start a mindfulness practice, learn breathing techniques, or try some meditation. Find a relaxing yoga sequence that you can drop into when you are feeling stressed out. Remember, it doesn’t have to take long. Even 5-10 minutes of yoga and/or breathing calms and relaxes the nervous system. If you must do a brief practice multiple times a day, that’s okay.
Also remember not to beat yourself up if you slip. If you must try your aunt’s famous chocolate cake, practice the 2 bite rule. Take 2 luscious bites, savor it, and then put it away. It also helps to have a glass of water and a green drink prior to any parties so that your body feels nourished and less likely to crave unhealthy foods.
Remember to enjoy the holidays. It’s a time when family and friends gather together to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate traditions. It doesn’t have to mean stress, overeating, and weight gain. Follow these tips and enjoy an energetic, slim holiday!!
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