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Nibbling Away At the Holidays

By: Cara Barth

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie”

~ David Mamet, Boston Marriage

Sitting to write today, I glanced over at my calendar and for a split second, I had to think about the date. All of a sudden, I became painfully aware that we are fast becoming “knee deep” in November, and the next couple months are marked as two of the most emotionally charged of the entire year!

With all the shopping, cleaning, baking, traveling and socializing with people we may be excited to see, those we do not particularly wish to hang out with, or some we are missing terribly, many of us find it easy to turn to food to relieve these emotional triggers. It’s a known fact that relationships remain one of the biggest challenges during the holidays. Poor boundaries between family members often lead to poor eating habits around a holiday table.

While David Mamet in his play “Boston Marriage” says fairly tongue-and-cheek, “We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie!” Eating our feelings is no laughing matter. We quite literally start, “nibbling away at the holidays.” Starting with Thanksgiving, we chomp our way through disappointment, sadness, loneliness, and even happiness.

So what is “Emotional Eating” or “Stress Eating?” It is eating in which we feed our emotions vs. our body. Emotional eating has nothing to do with hunger, nutrition, or wellness. An example of this might be, comforting yourself with a pound of holiday fudge because you can’t get home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Whatever the cause of our eating, we have an unhealthy relationship with our food. We have become attached to it, give it emotions, personify it, and make it out to be something it isn’t! The primary issue is, no matter the emotional response, an emotional eater goes to food.

Yup, “emotional eating” is totally a “thing!”

Therefore, preparing oneself for difficult and triggering interactions might be an important aspect of getting ready for the holidays, and here is where I take the risk of sounding like a “self-help” book. However, I truly think that some of these ideas may help with getting through the holiday season and the emotional roller coaster without winding up the size of Santa. (Yup, I went to Christmas, but only for the sake of reference, I swear I am not putting up my tree yet!)

 Tips to Deter the “Holiday Nibbles”

* Reframe your Intentions: Choose to get through the holidays mindfully. Make the choice to focus on celebrating the company you keep, being positive in the moment, and giving attention to holiday traditions. This will keep you from feeling stressed and overwhelmed. You are not a super hero, don’t act like one! Be a holiday “human being” not a holiday “human doing.”

* Know that YOU are in Control: You do not have to be a victim of the stress, happiness, sadness, and emotional triggers. Feel empowered. It helps control your emotions and eating.

* Ask a Question?: “Am I Hungry?” If you aren’t actually hungry, but you want to eat, think about what you might be feeling and what underlying desire is at the bottom of the impulse to eat.

* Find a Stress-Reducing Activity: You’ll feel better if you get physical instead of eating to release some of that stress. You could also try activities that are soothing and will restore peace of mind, such as getting a massage or a manicure/pedicure. Try yoga, meditation, prayer, or simple, deep breathing to relax.

* Practice Kindness to Yourself: If overeating happens, try to learn from it. Don’t shame yourself.

* Let Go and let God: Sounds cliché, but letting go of painful family history could help prevent the emotional eater’s cycle. Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend the holidays with your history. Each new holiday is a chance to create a new pattern of traditions, relationships, and boundaries.

Finally, I want to remind you that emotional eating is a real struggle. I know, I’ve been there many times, and you are not alone. However, through awareness and healing, it does not need to overwhelm us. I will leave you with these thoughts:

“The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them both.”

Romans 14:3 | NIV

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Colossians 2:16-17 | NIV



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