The holidays are officially here and that usually means lots of cheer. We eat with family and friends for regular meals but also to celebrate. Sometimes we eat just because we can – which is comforting.
Comfort eating and stress eating are things we often hear about (and maybe even do), but is it a real thing or just an excuse to eat more food?
When we feel sad or down about something or even just bored, eating can often help us feel better. Grabbing a bag of our favorite treats, eating a large pizza with friends or snacking on some nibbles in bed can lift our spirits, but usually only temporarily. When you've finished eating bad foods, it's rare not to feel sluggish, tired and even worse about yourself.
Why do some people participate in emotional eating?
For most of us, we've grown up with bad foods being used at treats. Most of our parents didn’t offer us carrots and apples when we got a great report at school or behaved well all day. Many children grow up associating good behavior and good times with junk food. On birthdays, we go out to a restaurant and celebrate with our friends, making unhealthy choices most of the time. We have birthday cakes full of sugar and don't even feel bad about it, because after all, it's our birthday! This habit that makes us associate junk food with happy occasions and feeling good is one of the main reasons why people eat emotionally.
Another reason why chocolate and sweet foods tend to be the ones we reach for first is because sugar is addictive and gives us temporary pleasure. While we're eating sweet foods, we experience high levels of enjoyment, which is why we reach for the candy and sugary snacks when we're sad.
How do you know whether or not your emotions are tied to your eating habits?
When you feel low, do you eat your favorite foods to feel better? If so, it's very possible that your emotions are tied to your eating habits. Are you more likely to make healthier choices when you're happy? This is another indication that your emotions are playing a big part in your diet. Food should provide healthy nutrition for our body, and shouldn't be used as a tool to help us feel happier (especially if you're binge eating or gorging on junk food).
How can you detach your emotions from your eating habits?
The holidays can bring about a lot of stress so detaching your emotions from your eating habits can be difficult to do as it takes a lot of time and effort. One of the best things which will help you with this is to find other things that make you feel better when you're down and/or stressed.
Go play, find a sport you enjoy and start or join a game, listen to some good music and dance around the house, go for a walk or do some yoga or other exercise; and if you're tempted to reach for the snacks, make sure you keep healthier options available to choose from such as fruit, raw vegetables or low-calorie crackers and rice cakes. Sometimes our emotions can get the best of us, but if you have a plan in place with all the activities and healthy snacks loaded in your arsenal, you’ll find yourself ahead of the game.