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Emotional eating, tips on how to beat holiday weight gain - Laurinburg Exchange

 Kathie Cox Health Matters

Kathie Cox

Health Matters

The holidays are HERE! Just when we are finally getting our weight under control, boom! Food is everywhere. From the office to meetings, from home to the local restaurants (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 us gain weight. Add in the emotions of the season and the holidays can deal our weight loss efforts a double whammy.

We’ve got the stress of the holidays, along with lack of sleep, and, for many of us, a variety of bubbling emotions that come to the surface – AND we’ve got all this food calling our name everywhere we 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 overwhelming amount of holiday foods may cause problems controlling what we eat.

The good news is that it is possible to keep the holiday food fests from ruining our weight loss plans, maintaining our weight or over indulging. One of the best ways to start, experts say, is by discovering what our 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 we 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 we need to know. There are several differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger:

· Emotional hunger comes on suddenly; physical hunger occurs gradually.

· When we eat to fill a void that isn’t related to an empty stomach, we crave a specific food (pizza or ice cream) and only that food will meet our need. Or, maybe not. When we eat because we are actually hungry, we are open to options.

· Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly with the food we crave; physical hunger can wait.

· Even when we are full, if we are eating to satisfy an emotional need, we are more likely to keep eating. When we are eating because we are hungry, we are more likely to stop

when we are full. Did you know it takes your brain at least 20 minutes to register that our stomachs are full?

· Emotional eating can also leave behind feelings of guilt; eating when we are physically hungry does not.

Even though strong emotions can trigger cravings for food, we 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 tip 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.

For more information on healthy eating tips, avoiding holiday weight gain or emotional eating, please contact Kathie Cox, Health Educator, Scotland County Health Department at 910/277-2470, Ext. 4478. Wishing you all a HEALTHY and Happy Holiday Season!

Kathie Cox is a health educator II/PIO with Scotland County Health Department.