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15 Ways You Can Handle Holiday Overeating and Emotional Eating

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15 Tips for Handling Holiday Overeating and Emotional Eating Lev Dolgachov/PhotoSpin

Emotional eating and overeating don’t just happen during the winter holidays. Chances are you struggle with disordered eating throughout the rest of the year too.

However, it’s much harder to avoid the temptation when a delicious buffet is spread out in front of you, and many other people are partaking in excess.

Experts share the best tips to help women during the holidays who are at risk for emotional eating and overeating.

Chrissy Barth, a registered dietitian, provided the following eight tips via email.

1) “Eat what you love. Remember, there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food. Moderation and portion control are key to maintaining weight, as deprivation usually leads to overeating.”

2) “Another key is self-care, which may include journaling one's feelings, thoughts and emotions, getting adequate rest, eating nutrient-rich, drinking adequate fluids such as water, and making the time for enjoyable exercise - including mindfulness-based practices such as yoga and meditation.”

3) “Don’t fall into the common hidden trap of ‘saving’ all of your calories for dinner.”

4) “Fuel every [three to five] hours, starting with breakfast. Make sure to include a lean protein to keep you feeling satisfied.”

5) “Pack wholesome snacks for eating on the go - think lean protein with fiber-rich carbohydrates such as an apple with string cheese or half of a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread.”

6) “If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation (men no more than two alcoholic beverages a day and women no more than one). Alcohol slows down the metabolism, is easily stored as fat, and may increase the risk of overeating.”

7) “Use the ‘Healthy Plate’ as a guide for portion and proportion awareness. Fill half of your plate with antioxidant-rich veggies, a quarter of lean protein - about the size of your palm and the thickness of a deck of playing cards - and the other quarter with a fistful of complex carbohydrates like stuffing or mashed potatoes.”

8) “Indulge, but don’t overindulge. In other words, eat mindfully. For example, enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie rather than the entire pie or a portion-controlled mini can of soda if you love the full-calorie versions.”

Jessica Sepel, a nutritionist, health blogger, and wellness coach has four tips to get you through the holidays without feeling like a slave to emotional eating and overeating.

1) “Eat before you go. This might seem strange, but try having a healthy, satiating snack before you go to a party. Great options are raw nuts, a protein shake, Greek yogurt with cinnamon, or a hard-boiled egg. A protein-rich snack will ensure you’re not starving when you arrive and end up eating more than you planned.”

2) “Drink water. If we’re dehydrated we’re even more likely to turn to food when we’re not really hungry. Water can also fill you up and help distract you. It’s especially important to stay hydrated if you’re drinking alcohol. It’s easy to get tipsy and lose all track (or care) about what you’re munching on.”

3) “Do not skip meals. This is a surefire way to get so hungry that a binge is inevitable. Keep your blood sugar stabilized with regular meals.”

4) “Consult a counselor or psychologist. This is my top piece of advice. Emotional eating could be a sign of an underlying issue to work out, and a professional will help you uncover the emotional baggage and pain behind the episodes.”

Melanie Greenberg, a clinical and health psychologist gave her three tips via email.

1) “Don’t Overcommit”

“When we are fatigued and rushing around, willpower goes out the window and we are more likely to eat mindlessly or for comfort.

“So, before you say ‘yes’ to another volunteer commitment or social invitation, think about whether you have a substantial reason for going (e.g. being with people you care about, good for your career, personally meaningful).

“If there is no good reason for going, think about whether your time may be better spent resting or getting your errands done.”

2) “Have Reasonable Expectations”

“To keep your emotional health in check, do a check of your expectations ... Make sure your expectations are in line with reality so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment or deplete your reserves so much that you overeat.”

3) “Keep Up Your Stress Reduction Routines”

“You are going to need your healthy ways of reducing stress more during the holidays. So don’t neglect to stock your fridge with fresh food or get healthy takeout, and do your aerobics, outdoor walking, yoga or meditation.

“If you really get pressed for time, incorporate walking into your daily routine. Always take the stairs, park an extra block away, clean your house, and so on.”


Barth, Chrissy. Email interview. November 3, 2014.

Sepel, Jessica. Email interview. November 3, 2014.

Greenberg, Melanie. Email interview. November 3, 2014.

Reviewed November 4, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.