Do you find yourself turning to food in order to cope with the stress of the holiday season?

With all the Christmas planning, end of year tasks to finish, 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.

Food seems to be the easiest go to strategy at hand.

And then they feel guilty and blame themselves for not having enough self-control.

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating refers to consumption of food for the purpose of regulating one’s emotional states. You may eat because you’re sad, depressed, stressed, or lonely. Or you may use food as a reward. Food can be soothing and distract you from what’s really bothering you.

It’s healthy to give yourself the freedom to experience any negative emotions that you may be feeling but it can be frightening to start.

The good news is…these holidays, you can have a breakthrough and eat with freedom when you make some INNER changes around your thoughts and beliefs.

Here are five simple steps to help you eat with freedom and avoid emotional eating over the holidays.

Step 1 – Go Deep

Decide NOW, how you would like to feel on the first day of 2020. ⁠ ⁠Take a few moments and picture yourself waking up on the first day of 2020.

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 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? ⁠

Step 2- Get curious

Your emotional cravings and urges are a window into your inner landscape.

Stress and frustration tend to be the EATING triggers for most people.

Take a step back and observe your behaviours as opposed to being mindlessly dragged into the old habit of “numbing out with food”

The next time a craving hits see if you can pause and ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the emotion that lies underneath my craving?
  • What am I trying to soothe, or avoid?
  • What are my frustrations with this behaviour?
  • HOW is it affecting my life?

Step 3 – Create Your Holiday Plan

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.

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.

 Step 4 – Shower yourself in Compassion

“Self-compassion is nurturing yourself with all the kindness and love you would shower on someone you cherish.”

Dr Debra Reble

Self-compassion allows you the space to understand the soothing that emotional eating gives you.

  • Try to be kind, nonjudgmental, and empathetic toward yourself
  • This mind-set allows you to be honest with yourself

I find “loving-kindness meditation” to be a great tool in initiating self-compassion.

This is a well-known form of meditation that dates back thousands of years.

Doing even a few minutes of this meditation has been shown to strengthen a sense of connection with others and increase positive feelings.

Step 5 – Focus on sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep not only helps 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 actually 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.

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

Remember that self-awareness, being honest with yourself and self-compassion will help you move in the right direction.

 Today I challenge you to be present and feel what you need to feel.

Now it’s over to you…

What’s something that has helped you to avoid emotional eating in the holiday season, in the past?

Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your story.

Irena Geller

Emotional Eating Coach

BSc (Biomed), Cert IV (PT), Wellness Coach (Level 3)

I coach busy women to put down their fork and pick up their life.  

If you want to lose weight, feel proud of yourself and eat with freedom, book a free 15-min mini-coaching session with me and I’ll show you how to liberate yourself from your inner critic.

“My mission for 2020 is to free 10,000 women from their inner critic so they can love their bodies, eat with freedom, grow in self-confidence and enjoy the body they deserve.


Gellar, I. 2019. Does Food Numb Emotional Pain? Here’s How to Find Out.

Gellar, I. 2019. 7 Simple Ways to Manage Holiday Emotions Without Reaching for Food