How to handle emotional eating during the holiday season

By Betty Murray

The holidays are a difficult time for many people, are they hard for you? Perhaps this holiday season will be your first without a loved one. Maybe you have to spend the holiday away from family and friends.

Whatever the reason, it isn’t uncommon for the holidays to bring about depression. Coping with your emotions during the holidays can easily lead to emotional eating.

No question about it: Food is comforting. Research shows that hormones released from the stomach influence the human brain. The foods we crave may influence that hormonal release. A recent study found that people who were stimulated with sad music and sad images and were then fed fatty foods were happier after eating.

If it isn’t kept in check, emotional eating can lead to overeating, resulting in weight gain and possibly even health complications. If you find yourself craving a chocolate when you’re feeling down, it might be best for you to indulge that craving, but don’t go overboard. Having a small piece of chocolate may stimulate your brain to reduce the sad or depressed activity, leaving you feeling happier and more energized.

But you shouldn’t allow yourself to indulge in an entire package of Oreo’s.  There is a such thing as a “healthy” comfort food. Some healthy foods will trigger similar effects in the brain, helping you to get over that slump and feel happy again (at least for a little while).

If you think you may be prone to emotional eating this holiday season, here are a few foods to eat that will help keep you both happy and healthy.

  • Salmon – The omega-3 fatty acids may have the same effect on the brain as saturated fats, and may also reduce sadness and depression.
  • Soybeans, oatmeal, shellfish, cottage cheese – These foods are rich in folic acid and B-12. Though the exact link is unknown, people who are depressed often have low levels of these vitamins in their blood.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D has long been thought to help relieve mood disorders. If you’re feeling down, spending time in the sun, or consuming milk, egg yolks or fish bones will increase levels of Vitamin D and will likely make you feel happier.

It may not be possible to avoid emotional eating. The key is in knowing what to eat to boost your mood without having a negative effect on your waistline or overall health.

Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.