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Ways to handle emotional eating this festive season

It’s that season to wine, dine and make merry. However, it can be a moment of heightened stress, especially seeing the year come to an end while you still have unmet expectations. Emotional eating may be fueled by socialising with strangers at parties, unresolved childhood grievances, alcohol, travel fatigue, pressure to party, shifts in routines, unhealthy family dynamics and striving to be on your best behaviour. Here’s how to cope with it

1. Sit while you eat

This helps you consume less food and fewer calories because you eat more slowly and pay attention to what you are putting into your mouth. Chances are, you will choose healthier foods worth savouring.

Eating slowly increases your feelings of satiety, which can help you stop eating when you are full. When you shovel your entire meal into your mouth in five minutes, your brain won’t send the message to your stomach that you are full until after you have overeaten.

2. Find another comfort item or activity

Food is a perfect comfort activity for emotional eaters. However, by swapping that behaviour for another comfort activity, you can train your brain to go somewhere else for comfort. Try going for a nature walk, yoga, exercise, journaling, reading, and meditation, among others.

3. Distract yourself

For instance, you are in the living room and your mum just enters with a plate of sausages and samosas. You have just finished munching on the last cookie your aunt brought you.

So, just get out of the living room, say to the bedroom or even, take a walk or do activity that will make you forget the sausages for a while until you can re-enter the living room with a little more resolve. Like any addiction, distraction is often the best antidote for emotional eating.

4. Keep a supply of safe comfort food

In order to keep your hands away from the problem foods, it is best to have a supply of comfort foods that you can eat. These include dark chocolate, water, and fruits, among others.

5. Know your potential triggers

Monitor the emotions you are experiencing throughout the holidays that may trigger emotional eating such as sadness, excitement, disappointment, exhaustion and overwhelm.

6. Plan ahead

Think ahead to what usually drives your emotional eating, then plan for how you will comfort or care for yourself. Call a friend, take a walk, find a quiet space to reset your emotions or use soothing self-talk to get you through.

7. Take care of yourself

Don’t get too hungry, too angry, too lonely or too tired. It’s a recipe for disaster. Self-care is critical all the time, but especially during the holidays. Sleep well, eat regularly throughout the day and tackle emotions as they surface.

8. Use the power of ‘No’

Often some people say ‘Yes’ when they want to say ‘No’. But remember, you do not need to please everyone. Stop forcing yourself to do things you really don’t want to do. Look into your heart, be honest with yourself and choose what is most nourishing for you in the moment.

9. Weigh yourself every morning

Cruel as it is, but it’s about accountability. A recent research found that the overweight or obese adults who weighed themselves every day, over the course of 18-month study lost more weight, on average, than those who didn’t.

The researchers found no increase of disordered eating among the group that checked their weight every day. Regular feedback contributed to a sense of continued awareness and self-reinforcement, which further promoted behavioural changes.

10. Don’t expect perfection

Instead of getting rigid and stressed about food, allow yourself to be curious. Notice where your plans go well and where they don’t. Notice the strategies that work and when something doesn’t, give yourself permission to make adjustments instead of getting mad at yourself for not getting it perfect. Take the attitude that you’ll do your best.

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