The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but they can also be the most stressful time of the year! From financial stress to stressful family dynamics and getting out of our normal routines – it can be a lot to manage. Coping with the stress of the holidays can be challenging, and many people lean on the comfort of food to get through the season.
To be clear – stress eating can be a useful tool to get quick relief from difficult feelings. After all, food is part of the joy of the holidays! Stress eating becomes problematic when we rely on food exclusively to manage stress, and it starts to impact our mental and physical health. If you find that you are pushing the limits on what feels good for your body, it’s time to take a deeper look.
This month, we’ve partnered with Culina Health to share expert tips for managing stress eating and incorporating a practical, balanced approach to nutrition during the holidays.
"The more we villainize certain foods, the more we crave them, and the more power they will hold over us. Allow yourself to enjoy all foods in a mindful and balanced way."
Stick to a consistent eating routine – eat every 3-4 hours.
Eating consistently throughout the day, i.e. eating every three to four hours, is a great way to ensure that you are eating enough, keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day, and not letting yourself enter ravenous, hangry territory. Stick with breakfast, lunch, dinner and 1 – 2 snacks per day to fuel your energy and prevent overeating.
Create balanced meals with enough protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.
Focus on balancing your plate with a source of protein and fiber-filled complex carbohydrates whenever you can – home cooked or at social events. Add vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, fish, poultry and lean meats to meals when if feels appropriate. Sticking to this general guideline most of the time will help ensure you are getting adequate nutrients, and will make those delicious holiday meals more satisfying.
Move your body consistently in a way that feels good.
This is not a hot take – the benefits of movement and exercise are undisputed. At Culina Health, our philosophy on movement is this: move your body in a way that you enjoy, and in a way that you can do on a consistent basis. Whatever it is – dancing, hiking, spinning, yoga, boot camp – find a workout you enjoy, and do it regularly.
Physical activity should not be a way to punish your body for what you’ve eaten; it’s not a requirement for you to be able to eat something delicious later on, and it certainly should not be something that you have to force yourself to do. Let it be a source of joy and release, and you’ll reap the benefits.
Take a mental note of what triggers your emotional eating, and work on a non-food-related way to cope with that.
Emotional eating is when we eat to soothe or cope with certain emotions – such as stress, sadness, loneliness, anger, boredom, etc. While it’s totally okay to do this every now and again, it shouldn’t be a consistent habit. If you find yourself turning to food as a coping mechanism for experiencing certain emotions, I suggest taking a deeper look. After all, food will not actually help fix or solve any of these emotions. It’s important to develop non-food-related coping mechanisms – such as therapy, meditation, journaling, or confiding in loved ones.
No foods or treats are “off limits” – give yourself unconditional permission to enjoy them.
When we deem foods good and bad, or healthy and unhealthy, it creates a power dynamic. Those off-limit foods start to become more appealing because we tell ourselves that we can’t have them. The more we villainize certain foods, the more we crave them, and the more power they will hold over us. At Culina Health, we encourage you to practice food neutrality. Allow yourself to enjoy all foods in a mindful and balanced way.
Remember – if emotional eating is a habit of yours, it’s likely not something that will go away overnight. It will take time, practice and consistency. But if you put in the effort, you are absolutely capable of establishing a more balanced relationship with food and in turn, a better relationship with yourself.
Culina Health is a personalized nutrition platform powered by registered dietitians & tech to help you fuel a well-balanced life. If you’re looking for support to meet your nutrition goals, click here to learn more.
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