Home » Emotional Eating & Thanksgiving

Emotional Eating & Thanksgiving

  • by

Thanksgiving is truly one of my favorite holidays, with the focus on family, traditions, and food. The focus on connection to family through food is on my mind this year. I simply enjoy baking sugar cookie cut-outs with my two children, decorating with lots of messy toppings, licking the frosting off our fingers, taking silly photos, and crunching into a delicious, crispy cookie. My husband loves his mom’s stuffing as it brings back his memories of cold high school football games and the anticipated warm meal after. I tend to prefer my mom’s stuffing, not only for the taste, but it seems to make for a well-meaning joke between my husband and I; whose stuffing is the best? Bonding over food is healthy, happy, and never something to be worried about.

I counsel many patients who struggle with emotional eating, yet this is separate from allowing food to trigger emotions. My examples above elicit happy memories and anticipated pleasures. The situations involving emotional eating that may be tricky to navigate and usually entail using food to soothe an emotion. For example, when both my children need me at the exact time that the phone rings with the long-awaited important phone call, I may want to reach for the dark chocolate stash as I pick up the phone just as the caller hangs up.

I am obviously stressed in this moment. Is the chocolate going to solve my stress? No, of course not. Will the chocolate make me feel good temporarily? Possibly. I have a fairly good handle on my own emotional eating triggers, and I know that the chocolate will taste better when I am in a calm state to actually enjoy it. My motto is to finish the task at hand, sit down with my chocolate (on a plate) and mindfully enjoy it. Deprivation generally just does not work for me, nor does it work for most of my patients. For those just starting to navigate the tricky obstacles of emotional eating, try enjoying the chocolate followed by an activity that is not food related but still pleasurable. This teaches us that we should not solely rely on food to feel better.

You can use these tips during the upcoming holidays. Food and culture, family, and relationships are all intertwined, and anyone who suggests that food is solely intended for nutrition is missing the whole nourishing aspect of food. Food certainly provides fuel for our bodies, but also provides memories, connection, and pleasure for our soul. Please enjoy your holidays and allow food to trigger (hopefully happy) emotions. If you notice yourself relying on food to soothe negative emotions, consider reaching out to me for support at jessicar@waverleyoaks.com. Happy and healthy holidays!

Content submitted by Jessica Roy MS, RD, LDN