Many Struggle With Emotional Eating During Holidays
Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders reports the holidays are an extremely difficult time for those suffering from emotional eating.
"Emotional eating is using food to meet emotional needs," said Juliet Zuercher, registered dietitian at Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders. "Emotional eaters use food to either avoid or attempt to change emotions ranging from slightly uncomfortable to deeply painful."
The reason emotional eating is used by many people is that it works in the short term. The temporary relief experienced from binge-eating acts as negative reinforcement for this behavior. The long-term consequences, however, may include inactivity, depression, weight gain, lethargy, joint pain, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, self-loathing and hopelessness.
"To successfully treat emotional eating involves using better alternatives than food to meet legitimate needs of safety, love, competency, connection, meaning and acceptance," adds Zuercher.
The upcoming holidays may be an especially difficult time for individuals suffering from emotional eating not only because food is so prevalent and such an integral part of celebrations during this time of year, but also because many Americans are experiencing more stress than usual due to the economic problems the country is facing. More stress leads to more emotional eating, and this is only compounded when delectable foods are everywhere.
Since emotional eaters don't have a healthy relationship with food, they're unable to experience freedom in eating. They don't consider food as neutral -- it's either friend or foe. This attitude sets up a rigid, "all or nothing" type of thinking.
Remuda recommends the following tips to help individuals with emotional eating cope during this particularly difficult holiday season:
-- Focus on holistic well-being and seek out activities that nurture mind, body and spirit.
-- Instead of following rigid rules around food, relax. Select moderate portions of foods that taste good and are satisfying, then walk away from the food.
-- Resist the urge to feel guilty about what or how much was eaten.
-- Take any opportunity to be active. Walk for 10 minutes in the brisk fresh air, build a snowman with the kids, dance, and play with the dog.
-- Give your time and talents to others. Volunteer at your favorite organization.
-- Take the focus off self-loathing, failed diets and deprivation.
-- Make memories in meaningful ways to rewrite past holiday anxiety.
"There is hope for emotional eating," adds Zuercher. "Finding freedom with food is entirely possible. Reconnecting with mind, body and spirit is the first step to overall well-being. Keeping food in its proper place in life and dealing responsibly with emotional pain is key to restoring balance in life."