’Tis the season to be jolly and the season for emotional indulgence.

If there’s any time of year when it’s easy to lose one self and one’s healthy habits, it’s the holidays. For a lot of us, the holidays and Christmas are a permission to go nutty and throw all caution to the wind. 

With all the planning, end of year tasks to finish and family gatherings your to do list is probably feeling overwhelming to say the least. So, it comes as no surprise that emotional eating & overeating tend to increase during the holiday period because we are faced with more temptations and unexpected emotional challenges. 

And here’s the thing…many busy women tend to comfort eat around this time because they don’t know any other way to manage their emotions and soothe themselves. 

So, the question is: How do you avoid holiday overeating and manage emotional indulgence in a healthy way?

Read here to explore some strategies to help you to navigate holiday overeating and stay in control of your cravings.

Strategy 1 – Sleep Yourself Well.

You might be wondering why this is the first strategy and that’s because sleep is the best form of self-care you can give yourself during the silly season.

Getting a good night’s sleep not only improves your mood, it also helps stabilize your appetite making it less likely for you to engage in emotional eating. 

The two hormones that control appetite are called leptin and ghrelin 

When you don’t sleep enough, these hormones become unbalanced. 

  • Sleep-deprived women tend to have low amounts of leptin and high amounts of ghrelin 
  • This leads to an increase in appetite 

Here are some tips for getting a better sleep: 

  • Mindfully accept the need for sleep, even if it doesn’t fit well into your plans. 
  • Give yourself permission to sleep more 
  • Sleep regenerates your body and will make you feel refreshed and more productive 
  • If you have the urge to eat, try to take a quick catnap to recharge your batteries 

If you have trouble sleeping, try chamomile tea, which is helpful to calm your nervous system. 

Strategy – Make Deliberate Decisions.

Decide NOW, how you would like to feel on the first day of 2022. ⁠ ⁠Take a few moments and picture yourself waking up on the 1st January 2022.  

  • ⁠ ⁠ How do you want to feel – physically and emotionally? ⁠ ⁠  

Here are some examples of feelings:   

  • Energized⁠  
  • Calm⁠  
  • Motivated⁠  
  • Mentally clear⁠  
  • Grounded⁠  
  • Excited⁠ ⁠ 

Now it’s time to turn your feeling into actionable steps. ⁠ ⁠  

For example:    

I want to feel calm.  ⁠  

  • What small practices might help you grow this sense of peace? ⁠  
  • Can you spend a few minutes in meditation each day? ⁠  
  • What activities can you pre-plan to take the stress out of your day. 

I want to feel energized.    

  • How can you prioritise sleep? ⁠  
  • How can you say “NO” to the non-essentials? ⁠  
  • How can you create a time daily to take a walk? ⁠  

Strategy 3 – Let Go of Perfection

Do you tend to label certain foods as “good” and “bad”?

These quick labels can cause emotional stress and contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food.  

This Christmas ditch all the food rules and restrictions.

Once you let go of the notion that there is a “perfect” way to eat during holidays, you can achieve better success with using guiding principles, as opposed to hard-and-fast rules.

That way, you don’t go “off” a diet and then feel like you need to go “on” a diet after the holidays, but simply eat in a way that is satisfying, healthy, and maintainable.

Letting Go of Perfection Means:

  • Ditching all food rules and restrictions.
  • Being flexible with food choices.
  • Aiming for healthy eating not perfect, there is no such thing as perfect eating.
  • Understanding that some days during the holiday period you may eat more than usual.
  • Being kind and compassionate towards yourself for eating something you enjoyed, rather than feeling guilty.
  • Not allowing what you ate yesterday to dictate today

Strategy 4 – Create a Plan

Spend this time now, creating a plan that involves strategies to deal with all the unexpected things and events that may come up during your holidays. 

  • The key here is to create a plan that is realistic and one you feel confident sticking to. ⁠  
  • Focus on what’s possible and do-able over the next few weeks. ⁠ 
  • ⁠The first step is to set your priorities and get clear on what you want. 

Researchers at the University of Wyoming say it’s more effective to plan in advance to manage temptations with well-thought-out strategies.  

For example:

  • Begin with a plan that’s designed for you, so it’s important to spend the time up front to understand exactly what you need to do your best.
  • Identify upcoming overeating triggers and challenges now.
  • Create some routines to help you stay connected with yourself.  
  • Adjust your environment.

For example- Ask yourself these questions: 

  • When am I most likely to indulge my emotions? What part of the day does it tend to happen? 
  • Who am I with when this happens? 
  • Where am I when the feelings strike? 

Use this information to set yourself up for success and put some new rituals into place. 

Here are some examples situations and useful ways to deal with them

If you likely to indulge when home alone: 

  • Don’t keep any trigger foods or comfort foods at home. 

If you likely to buy something indulgent the way home from a stressful day at work, and eat it secretly in the car: 

  • Change your routine and take a different route home that doesn’t involve you going past the supermarket. 

If you’re sad, stressed or frustrated about something: 

  • Ask yourself if there’s a more effective way you might address it OR take care for yourself? 

You could take a 15-minute break to go breathe outside, or take a quick cat-nap.

And lastly here are some common questions that I get asked around this time of the year. I hope you find these helpful. 

Q & A – #1

Q:  I am food focused when I go to parties, how can I change my focus?

A:  Remember that those foods are available all year round. Repeat a promise to yourself that just for today, you will not eat anything that you didn’t plan for. This is your day to celebrate YOU—not the food. Tomorrow is another day.

Q & A – #2

Q:  I sometimes feel emotional and feel overwhelmed during the holidays and food always helps me get through this. How can I handle my emotions without turning to food?

A: Plan and acknowledge that this may happen. When it does and go to a quiet place and allow the emotion to come up and then ride the urge wave.

Here’s a video to help you ride the urge wave.

Wrapping Up

I hope that some of these strategies help you navigate this busy, stressful time of year and make this season an enjoyable time you will remember with fond memories.  

One of the biggest keys to not just surviving, but truly enjoying the holiday season eating with food freedom is practising gratitude. 

“Always have an attitude of gratitude”—Sterling K. Brown 

Now I have a question for you…. 

  • What’s your biggest challenge with healthy eating over the Christmas holidays? 

I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts and any questions you have on this article.  

Please write a comment below. 

Irena Geller
🍓Food & Mood 😃 Coach 

I coach busy stressed women, who are emotionally eating, to change their relationship with food with ease and confidence

B Biomedical Sc (UTS) | Nutrition Certificate (Cadence Institute) | Lifestyle, Health & Wellness Coach Level 3 (WCA)| Stress Management Certificate (WCA)

Want to Change Your Body? Start by Changing Your Mind.

If you feel ready to eat well consistently book a free 30-minute-coaching session with me and I will help you to develop a blueprint of realistic action steps that will guarantee your success!