Steer Clear of Emotional Eating at Holidays - My Bariatric Life

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • As a popular holiday song reminds us, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." Choosing the perfect gift, waiting in mall traffic with the sound of Christmas carols on the radio, parties and more parties, decorating the home both inside and out, Internet shopping, friends, family and...well...stress...lots of stress. Habitually, we have used food for comfort when stress presents but, gratefully, we will not be doing that again this year. We have grown and are wiser and more disciplined. Therefore, this writing will not instruct, but only remind those who read it what can be done to avoid old harmful habits. So, somewhere between Uncle Ted's one drink too many and the new Christmas puppy's third "accident" in the last ten minutes, the Christmas cookies that call us by name can be ignored, and improved behaviors exercised.

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    Emotional eating is an effort to negate emotions that cause discomfort. While stress is such an emotion, it is hardly the only one. Others include anger, sadness, boredom, and loneliness, and can be triggered by specific events including unemployment, finances, relationships, or work. The sad fact of the matter is that these attempts to gorge away stress and anxiety only can pacify the moment but never resolve the issue. Shortly after the last kernel is digested, the negativity and concern return along with the additional baggage of having failed our program. Do not beat yourself up if this sounds familiar. We are human and are prone to stumble, but as humans we also are prone to right ourselves again and continue on.

    Instead of continuing old harmful habits, why not try something else?

    Learn to differentiate between hunger and craving. Wanting sweets soon after a meal is more likely a craving than true hunger. Let the snack go.

    Begin to record those triggers that promote emotional eating. Journal the feelings and events that promote the desire to sabotage your hard work. Put onto paper the feelings you were having, what you may have eaten, how it felt to surrender, and how it felt afterward.

    Should cravings and negativity intrude, choose a comfortable substitute such as a good conversation with a friend or sponsor, a walk through a friendly place to collect your thoughts, a favorite piece of music, a good movie or comedy. Reflect and consider deeply how truly different and wonderful your life is now after undergoing weight-loss surgery. As you make your way through your personal passage, you will discover those substitutes that benefit most. One of the more favorable aspects of a program is that you get to invent large parts of it.

    Explore techniques that reduce stress. Meditation and yoga are useful as is walking or jogging. Check with a physician prior to jogging though so that you will get the benefits without the risks. Learn to relax and read yourself. Clenched teeth and fists, tight muscles and closed body posture, are signs of being wound a bit too tight. Let go and breathe.


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    Develop a support network of those who might help you to maintain a steady and healthy course. Enablers need not apply.

    Avoid the resources that contribute to poor habits. In other words, do not have junk foods or comfort foods filling the pantry at home. Do not tempt yourself and do not make access to the problem a short walk away.

    Keep your day busy. Boredom leads to eating. I am not suggesting that every second of every minute be filled, but do have daily guidelines to keep yourself active and focused.

    When you snack between meals (as you inevitably will do), make sure that you snack healthy. Low fat, low calorie foods such as fresh fruit or raw vegetables with fat-free dressings are good choices, as are occasional grain-free make-over versions of your favorite treats.


    Many will be experiencing stress this season and many will do so without the burden of additional pounds in the New Year. You may be one of them. Why not commit to that choice right here, right now?


    Up Next: The Good Life After Weight-Loss Surgery: Portion Control Over the Holidays


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    My Story...

    You can read about my decision to have weight loss surgery back in 2003 and my journey to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management since that time. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management with shareposts along the way to help you navigate that journey successfully.

Published On: December 16, 2011