As we're smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, I thought it would be a good time to talk about eating not because you're hungry, but because you're under stress. This is one time of year when pressures are high and food is abundant – a potential recipe for dietary disaster.
I've always found that I eat more during the holidays for two reasons: One, there's plenty of tempting food all around, and two, there's usually a little extra pressure from one source or another. It could be from family drama, work or just the pressure that comes along with entertaining. The source doesn't really matter — when the stakes are high, the cookies start calling my name.
Although there's a little comfort in knowing that I'm not the only one who succumbs to stress eating from time to time, it's not a healthy habit. According to 2007 research published in the journal Nutrition, stress induced eating is one likely factor that contributes to obesity.
But in any case, eating isn't a good way to deal with stress. Around the holidays, it can be helpful to create an action plan for dealing with stress.
Here's what my plan looks like:
- Set the alarm to a peaceful tone to wake you up gently. That feeling you get when the alarm buzzer blazes through the morning silence is a form of stress. Why would you want to start your day that way?
- In the weeks leading up to the holiday season, start cutting back on carbs. If you choose a white-flour bagel for breakfast, the refined flour will cause an inevitable spike in your blood sugar, which causes unnecessary stress to your system. Opt for whole wheat instead.
- Drink a lot of water and other non-caffeinated beverages. When the stress does come on, you'll be better suited to handle it than if you guzzle down the coffee.
- Take a cat nap to lower your stress level during the day. If you feel like your day is spiraling out of control, it's ok to check out for a little while and regroup. Just remember to set a gentle alarm to wake you in about 15 minutes. This way, you won't miss out on anything that could cause stress later.
- If a catnap isn't an option, try going for a walk or a bike ride. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that can trigger positive feelings and help combat feelings of stress.
Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!
Sign up for the Live Science daily newsletter now
Get the world’s most fascinating discoveries delivered straight to your inbox.