The holidays are here.
Just when you’re finally getting your weight under control, boom. Food is everywhere. From the office to meetings, from home to the local supply store (not to mention parties and family events), it seems as if the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s holiday season is one long, tempting food fest designed to make you gain weight. Add in the emotions of the season and the holidays can deal your weight loss efforts a double whammy.
You’ve got the stress of the holidays, along with a lack of sleep, and, for many, a variety of bubbling emotions that come to the surface – and you’ve got all this food calling your name everywhere you turn. It can become quite complicated for those who have a chronic issue such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and even for those who have no serious health issues – the over abundance of holiday foods may cause problems controlling what you eat.
The good news is that it is possible to keep the holiday food fests from ruining your weight loss plans, maintaining your weight or over indulging. One of the best ways to start, experts say, is by discovering what your personal holiday overeating cues really are. Though it may seem as if the temptation to overeat is all wrapped up in those homemade goodies, just being around more scrumptious food isn’t the whole story. One recent study indicated that, for most of us, the drive to overeat at any time of the year is brought on more by emotions than environmental cues. Food does more than fill our stomachs – it also satisfies feelings. Whenever you eat for reasons other than hunger, is called “emotional eating” and this can be one of the reasons for weight gain. Eating to “feed-a-feeling” and not a “growling stomach” is emotional eating. So here’s what you need to know. There are several differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger:
— Emotional hunger comes on suddenly; physical hunger occurs gradually.
— When you eat to fill a void that isn’t related to an empty stomach, you crave a specific food (pizza or ice cream) and only that food will meet your need. When you eat because you are actually hungry, you are open to options.
— Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly with the food you crave; physical hunger can wait.
— Even when you are full, if you are eating to satisfy an emotional need, you are more likely to keep eating. When you are eating because you are hungry, you are more likely to stop when you are full.
— Emotional eating can leave behind feelings of guilt; eating when you are physically hungry does not.
Even though strong emotions can trigger cravings for food, you can take steps to control those cravings. One of the strategies would be to become mindful. Notice what is in your hand, notice what is on your plate – portion control, and pay attention to ‘what’ you are eating. The key is to put limits on how much you will consume, and then stick to your plan. Another step is to learn to recognize true hunger and know your triggers. Don’t keep unhealthy foods around, snack healthy, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest. Tasty food and holiday gatherings go hand in hand. But it’s time to get it right!
Food is a basic human need; we can’t live without it. Learning how to control emotional eating and using moderation are keys in moving toward a healthier lifestyle. In other words, take care of yourself rather than letting food do it for you.
Have a healthy and happy holiday season.
For information on healthy eating tips, avoiding holiday weight gain or emotional eating, contact Kathie Cox, health educator at Scotland County Health Department, 910-277-2470, Ext. 4478.