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Eating After the Holiday

  • Eating

Not on, but after Thanksgiving, members of my "Food and Feelings"  message board were struggling with having overeaten. Many ate fairly “normally” on the holiday itself, only to find themselves bingeing and engaged in unwanted eating later that night or the next day. If you engaged in this eating pattern, you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Two thoughts. First is that holidays are often doubly stressful for troubled eaters. Not only are you faced with family, travel, unstructured or differently structured time, and perhaps less chance to exercise, but you have your eating problem to contend with, which includes being around varied and challenging foods and feeling thrown off your eating schedule. Many of you work very hard to eat healthfully and mindfully with family on a holiday—and do a great job of it. You come away from a holiday meal proud of your success, knowing it was no mean feat to accomplish. In fact, you’re so “controlled” around food, that tensions builds and when the day is done, you’re yearning to let off steam or reward yourself. And how might you do that? By eating, of course.

The second reason that eating might be difficult after a holiday is that you often keep yourself on a tight emotional leash. You put extra effort into not being reactive with difficult relatives and into tolerating a social scene that may be far from your liking. You bust your butt not to allow your feelings to get the best of you, which can be tremendously stressful and exhausting. And you succeed. But when the holiday is over and done, looking for relief and release, you turn to food to unwind and let loose.

In order not to engage in non-hunger eating, think about your post-holiday needs. Will you have an urge to let loose? Will you seek reward for eating healthily and handling yourself well? Because transitions back to normal life are often difficult, what will you do to avoid getting caught up in an eating tailspin? How will you take care of yourself?

Think and plan ahead. During the holiday, identify what you are and have been feeling and notice how tightly you’re “controlling” yourself (around food and people). Take breaks to relax and use soothing self-talk. Acknowledge that feeling stressed might lead to food-seeking, so devise strategies to unwind and take care of yourself when you return home. This is key! Make sure to have healthy foods you enjoy available at home. Give yourself an honest, post-holiday debriefing to stay on top of emotions. Deal with and let go of anger or upset. Sink right back into your routine—get a good night’s rest, do some exercise, talk with friends, journal, and take exceptional care of yourself.