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Parties, Potlucks & Comfort Eating

It’s official. I heard them today - Christmas songs have begun. Their familiar tunes chimed away as I walked down the bulk section of a grocery store. Too early, I thought.

I was suddenly reminded of invites to parties, potlucks and plans for the 25th that have sprinkled their way into my schedule and inbox. A flash of anxiety and excitement at the unavoidable month ahead came over me and I indulged in a small serving of reliably sweet chocolate covered almonds. Naturally.

Food just has this comforting and nurturing element to it. The textures and flavours invite our mouths and souls into an intimate slow dance and all our complications for those brief moments seem to melt away.

However, as the last bite is swallowed, that mesmerizing dance which promised so much, suddenly becomes short lived. Hypnosis ends and melted complications suddenly retake their shape just as they were. We realize that nothing has actually changed and we feel the same, if not worse, than before.

Eating for comfort is never a great way to soothe feelings of stress, anxiety and tension. I know this from experience. No matter what you may be thinking at the time, the answer cannot and will never be found in chocolate. It can take a lot of practice to realize.

Stress levels often rise over the holidays. From growing shopping lists to family gatherings, there are plenty of opportunities for its escalation. When those emotions mix with cheese wheels, Christmas cookies and egg nog we have a perfect recipe for comfort eating mayhem.

So what is one to do? Finding ways to comfort ourselves without food is essential. The answer is not in learning to control the desire for these foods, but learning to handle holiday stress differently overall. If we feel relaxed and uplifted, comfort eating suddenly seems to lose its appeal.

Here are some tips to de-stress over the holidays and curb comfort eating cravings:

  • Meditate – Meditation is a powerful way to de-stress. Even if you have never meditated ever, anyone living and breathing can do this. You can do it right now with me. Ok, ready? Go slow… Inhale…Exhale…Inhale….Exhale….. Now do it again even slower. That’s right, no need to levitate in lotus pose with your fingers in position, just focusing on your breathing is meditation. The beautiful thing about it is that it can be done anywhere, anytime - at parties, waiting in lines, or wrapping gifts.

  • Indulge in Yoga – Don’t let schedules get so busy that your yoga practice gets nudged to January. Yoga has this magical way of releasing stress and is far more reliable and fulfilling than another serving of figgy pudding.

  • Say “no” – Overscheduling and feeling obliged to do things can rise the stress levels. There is only so much we can do. Honor yourself and your needs and prioritize what is important. Perhaps a bubbly bath and a good book is exactly what you need to recharge rather than attending a less significant event.

  • Overeating – Ah, Comfort Eating’s close relative: Overeating. These two are great companions but are always up to no good. When Overeating gets invited to the party, things get messy inside. This puts more stress put on the body’s digestive and immune systems which makes us feel worse. If comfort eating leads to overeating, pause a moment in between bites and listen to your body’s voice. It may be crystal clear when it asks you to step away from the food.

  • Nourish Yourself – A really great way to curb stress and cravings is by keeping yourself properly nourished. So fill your fridge and party plate with lots of veggies; stay hydrated with H20 during the day and between glasses of wine; and perhaps skip the sugary holiday lattes for soothing and simple cinnamon tea.

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