How to Prevent Stress Eating During the Holidays

The holidays can be a great time of joy for many. But along with the joy there is sometimes a bit of added stress and anxiety. Even for those that love the family get-togethers, the stress of holiday shopping, added financial pressure, and hosting relatives can cause those cravings for sugar and carbs to increase.

When stress hits at this time of year, it’s easy to turn to that tray of cookies or bowl of candies for moral support. After all, cookies and sweets are lurking at every corner and can give you that boost of energy when you are tired.  

But that’s not healthy and you know it. And you’ll feel even less joy when you realize you’ve undone the whole year’s worth of fitness you’ve worked so hard for. If you find the holidays cause you to gobble down more than you should as a way to cope with the stress, here are 5 ways to stop the stress eating before the first tray of cookies is trotted out to the office break room.



When your boss announces there are no bonus checks this Christmas, you stayed up until 1 am wrapping gifts, or your great Aunt Sarah asks you for the tenth time when you will be walking down the aisle, instead of reaching for the holiday goodies get moving!  Go outside in the fresh air for a walk, hit the gym,  or just do  something physical that appeals to you. You’ll release the stress, and the exercise will help release the proper chemicals in your brain to make you feel better.  



The brain needs exercise too. Instead of letting it harp on the negative things that cause you to stress-eat or falling into the trap of binging on your favorite tv show, give it something constructive to do. Take 10 to 20 minutes to yourself to read something you want to read, work on a crossword puzzle, indulge in some meditation or do something else that stimulates your mind in an enjoyable way. It will help you feel refreshed.



While it’s true that the holidays are certainly a time for more indulgent meals, when you focus on your healthy eating prior to the big family dinners, it won’t be such a shock to your waistline. Make sure you’re eating meals as you would normally without skipping them. If you starve yourself all day because your job or your family (or both!) is making you nuts, you’re more prone to stuffing yourself at dinner with things that aren’t very healthful.  And remember to hydrate throughout the day!



Yes, there are certainly foods we only get to enjoy during this time of year like holiday cookies and cakes. But again, eating all of them isn’t going to do any good. So indulge mindfully and moderately. If you always look forward to your sister’s famous pecan pie, then focus on eating that when the time comes and say no to the treats that aren’t your favorite.



No one is perfect so if you find you caved in to peer pressure at work and ate treats you promised yourself you wouldn’t, forgive yourself and move on. Make the next thing you eat healthy and get moving on your exercise. Each moment is an opportunity for a new choice.  


A healthy, balanced lifestyle is not an 'all or nothing' approach.  Think of it more as 90-10.  Fill that plate with healthy foods, be active and mindful 90% of the time.  For that other 10% of the time, intentionally enjoy the treats you love and relax with family and friends. You won't feel guilty or regret the 10% and instead will find it to be a meaningful and happy part of your holidays.   




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