Avoid stress eating in the holidays with these three strategies

Here we are again—it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Or is it?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays, but as I’ve gotten older and now have a family, the stress of the festive season sometimes threatens to completely outweigh the joy. As women, we always seem to bear the heaviest burden of the holiday to-to lists. Here are a few things that I’m stressing over; do these sound familiar?

  • Buy presents for family, extended family, co-workers, household helpers, teachers, friends, clients, etc.,
  • Decorate house,
  • Design, address, and send holiday cards,
  • Shop for a fun party dress,
  • Prepare and host the annual holiday party/dinner,
  • Bake cookies with our little ones, with three (maybe four…OK, six) ending up in our own mouths, and
  • Stress out over how much this is all going to cost!

So far, I’ve managed to complete ONE of these. Guess which one?

With these long holiday to-do lists and our existing professional and personal commitments, it’s easy to slip into a nutrition rut! You know the deal. It starts with that co-worker who brings your favorite sugar cookies into the office one day. You have a few because you have so much to do, there’s no time for lunch, and what the hell? One bad day of eating won’t kill me! One day of bad eating at the office turns into grabbing a handful of red and green M&M’s from your kiddos’ candy jar. The next day you’re at the mall for five hours, you’re ravenous, and there’s nothing more appealing than the smell of that Cinnabon.

Before you know it, this impetuous eating turns into a few unwanted pounds around your waistline and your energy starts to go flat.

But wait! I’m here to tell you that stress eating does not need to coincide with the holidays. In fact, stress eating doesn’t need to occur during the rest of the year either, if you use these three strategies:

Strategies to Healthy Holiday Eating

  1. Change your internal dialogue from “I’m a holiday stress eater” to, “Sure, that treat looks good, but it won’t make me feel good!” Make this your annual holiday mantra for positive thinking, chant it to yourself morning, noon, and night, especially when you’re in tempting situations. Our thoughts become reality, so if you’re constantly telling yourself you’re a stress eater, then most likely you’ll continue to be one! Whereas if you focus on maintaining a positive internal dialogue, it will become easier and more habitual to make wise food choices, even when you’re stressed.
  2. Stock up on healthy grab-and-go foods. Set yourself up for success by having healthy go-to’s in all of the touch points of your day: in your kitchen/pantry, at the office, in your car and your handbag. Set a beautiful bowl of apples on your desk or kitchen counter. When you have healthy options in your line of sight, it’s much easier to make smart choices.
  3. Prior to the holidays, choose a few treats you know you can’t live without, and enjoy them at a time when you can eat slowly and savor what you’re eating. Maybe it’s your Mom’s garlic mashed potatoes or a slice of pecan pie with whipped cream at your family holiday dinner. Whatever it is, make a plan to enjoy these things and remind yourself of it when you’re tempted by other “stress foods” along the way. By being deliberate about your food choices in advance, you’ll eat less and walk away from the holidays feeling like a success.

The bottom line is that holiday eating doesn’t have to translate into extra pounds on your frame if you are thoughtful about your choices. Start using these strategies now, and you’ll feel confident and poised to continue making healthy decisions in January and throughout 2017.

If you like this article from Michelle, you’ll also love her post on Feeding the beast: Hormone-savvy nutrition for better health. And check out our “nutrition” section for recipes that support your best health. 



Shannon Perry

December 16, 2016
Director of Programming & Media

Medically Reviewed By

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