During the holidays, it can be easy to stress over getting everyone the right gifts and organizing family get-togethers, and the changing seasons can leave you in a funk. Food is one of the easiest methods to turn to when you’re feeling stressed, anxious and depressed, but it’s also unhealthy to cope with your mental health issues through food.
Jessica Setnick, the author of “The ADA Pocket Guide to Eating Disorders,” said in an email that she believes women do use food as a coping mechanism to handle mental health issues during the holidays.
“Some eat more, some eat less,” Setnick said. “The ones who eat more wish they were the ones who eat less, but actually eating less is just as stress-provoking. Not getting enough to eat increases anxiety and decreases ability to handle stress.”
Karen Koenig, a licensed clinical social worker and the author of “The Food and Feelings Workbook” and “The Rules of ‘Normal’ Eating,” said in an email that this unhealthy coping mechanism can intensify during the holidays, but it doesn’t necessarily start during the holidays.
“If women (or men) are in the habit of not experiencing their feelings or not managing them in healthy, effective ways, they will continue to do that during the holidays, only more so,” Koenig said.
Debi Silber, a health and wellness expert and author of "A Pocket Full of Mojo: 365 Proven Strategies To Create Your Ultimate Body, Mind, Image and Lifestyle," said that women try to do it all and be "superwoman" at this time of year, and this can create the stress and anxiety that leads to emotional eating.
"Many women use food as a way to soothe, calm, numb and relax from their problems and pain," Silber said. "Emotional eating is a self-soothing technique we've learned or taught ourselves and food is simply the drug of choice. It's easy, accessible and provides instant relief (although long term pain) as we flood ourselves with hormones/chemicals which help us relax."
If you haven’t yet gotten to the point of turning to food as a coping mechanism, and want to prevent that from happening, Setnick has some tips for you.
“Follow your normal eating schedule if it is a healthy one, i.e.