7 Simple Ways To Manage Holiday Emotions Without Reaching For Food

emotional eating, holidays
Irena Geller

Weight Loss Expert

Nov 17, 2019

Do you turn to food in order to cope with the stress of the festive season?

It’s easy to get caught up with mindless eating and stress eating as the pace picks up leading up to Christmas Holidays.

Many busy women comfort eat around this time because they don’t know any other way to manage their emotions and soothe themselves.

Women generally have a very low tolerance to stress. When they find themselves in a stressful situation which makes them feel uncomfortable they tend to look for anything to get rid of that feeling. 

And food seems to be the easiest go to strategy at hand.

And then they feel guilty and blame themselves for not having enough self-control.

Eating to Soothe

However, in my extensive personal experience and experience with my dear clients when it comes to overeating, I know that is rarely the case.

Women fall into the trap of eating to soothe themselves because emotional eating is so seductive and comforting, but most of all, it’s so convenient.

Experiencing Uncomfortable Feelings

The problem is that, many of us, have been taught from a young age to avoid things that feel uncomfortable and very ineffective ways to manage our emotions.

These ways are mainly about an escape (often with food) to avoid uncomfortable feelings.

In the long run, however, these are band-aid solutions that actually become a bigger problem.

Let’s explore some simple ways to help you manage holiday emotions in healthy ways, without reaching for food and ones that are soothing.

Before you begin, remember that looking for nonfood alternatives to soothe yourself is an ongoing process. 

  • There is no pressure or hurry. 
  • Go at your own pace.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. -Plato

1: Mindful Observation

emotions, eating, holidays

“You can observe a lot, just by watching.”—Yogi Berra

A mindful approach is a good way for most people to start a new behavior because it doesn’t take a lot of effort.

This is how to begin:

  • Simply watch yourself. 
  • Begin to understand your patterns.
  • Think deeply about what you learn about yourself.

Here are some tips:

For at least a week, just observe and keep track of what prompts you to seek food for comfort.

Write down the signals that prompt you to eat by keeping a journal:

  • What circumstances make you the most vulnerable?
  • Are there specific feelings? 
  • Do you do it at the same time each day? 

2: Let Go

Holding on to something that happened in the past that you can’t change can be a powerful trigger for overeating.

Letting go of, or not responding to, an urge to emotionally eat can take some practice. 

Letting go is an act in which you release your need to control the situation. You stop telling yourself how it should be and begin focusing on dealing with how things really are right now.

  • This technique allows you to open up to new insights
  • When you see issues as they really are, you can start finding new ways to address them

3: Set Your Inner Critic Straight

emotions, eating, critic

Your inner critic can be powerful and feel so real. This sort of self-shaming often leads to more eating, followed by shame and guilt.

  • Try being an observer of your thoughts, notice them but refuse to listen to them.
  • Give yourself a gentle little nudge each time you become aware that your inner critic is speaking up.

You start by directing kind words and thoughts toward yourself. While you say these words, remember that you deserve this kind of care. 

4: Practice Compassion

I find it’s helpful to practice having compassion for yourself, as it allows you the space to understand the soothing feeling that emotional eating gives you.

  • Try to be kind, nonjudgmental, and empathetic towards yourself
  • This mind-set allows you to be honest with yourself

I find “loving-kindness meditation” to be a great tool in initiating self-compassion

This is a well-known form of meditation that dates back thousands of years. 

Doing even a few minutes of this meditation has been shown to strengthen a sense of connection with others and increase positive feelings. 

5: The Art Of Reframing

eating, emotions

“When you feel empty choose feeling that your glass is half full”

Practice reframing a situation you face so that you can see another perspective.

Here is how to start:

A. Firstly notice your language

B. Write it down

  • Write down any negative words that you use to describe the situation (failure, stupid, worst ever, and so forth).
  • Choose new words. For example, change “failure” to “stumble.” A “relapse” can be made into a “reminder” or even a “chance to start again.”

C.Use this experience as a teaching moment

  • Ask yourself “What important lesson can I learn from this situation?”

6: Take A Mini-Mind Vacation

eating, holidays

Stop and take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel totally relaxed and at ease.

  • Notice all the smells and sounds of this place
  • What are you doing when you get there?
  • What can you touch to make the scene real?
  • How do you feel being there?

You could also try listening to a guided imagery meditation.

Here is one that I use “Self-Healing with guided imagery”

7: Sleep On It

Getting a good night’s sleep not only helps your mood, it also helps stabilise your appetite making it less likely for you to engage in overeating.

The two hormones that control appetite are called leptin and ghrelin

  • When you don’t sleep enough, these hormones become unbalanced.
  • Sleep-deprived women tend to have low amounts of leptin and high amounts of ghrelin
  • This leads to an increase in appetite

Here are some tips for getting a better sleep:

Mindfully accept the need for sleep, even if it doesn’t fit well into your plans.

  • Give yourself permission to sleep more
  • Sleep actually regenerates your body and will make you feel refreshed and more productive
  • If you have the urge to eat, try to take a quick catnap to recharge your batteries

If you have trouble sleeping, try chamomile tea, which is helpful to calm your nervous system.
I hope that some of these simple soothing ways help you navigate this busy, stressful time of year and make this season an enjoyable time you will remember with fond memories. 

What does this mean for you?

Slow down and be present and mindful, this will put you in the driver’s seat so you have the power to make healthy choices and plan ahead. 

Slowing down can feel very challenging but it’s a very important skill to learn in taking control of emotional eating and stress eating.

Being present means that you can enjoy the taste, that conversation with your friend and create genuine connections with your family/friends that you will remember!

Now I have a question for you….

  • How can you find healthier ways to nourish yourself and eat with freedom these holidays? 

I would love to hear your thoughts and any questions you have on this article. Please write a comment below.

The Carousel would like to thank Irena Geller for her contribution.


By Irena Geller

Weight Loss Expert

Irena Geller is a Food & Mood Coach and author in the Health & Weight loss industry who helps busy women to put down their fork and pick up their life. She uses 3 proven key steps, helping busy women to eat well consistently, lose weight effortlessly, potentially adding years to their life so they can live those years to the fullest, looking amazing and feeling confident! You can contact Irena here: https://irenageller.com.au/



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