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Tips for Avoiding Emotional Eating Over the Holidays

Holiday season is coming which means the sweet treats will be coming our way too!

For most Americans, that means eating – lots of eating – followed by weight gain and a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. The good news is you don’t have to. You can still enjoy your favorite occasional indulgences, but in moderation. It’s all about being mindful of what you eat..

The holidays are packed with stress, and we all know the easiest, safest, most affordable place to relieve that stress is indulging into halloween candy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, a box of Christmas cookies, and lots and lots of red wine. If you’re prepared with some action items, it’s possible to not get trapped into emotional eating even during the holidays — or at least try not to.

But the more we give in to the patterns of emotional eating, the deeper our pain gets, especially for those of us who are intolerant to sugar, gluten, dairy, and alcohol — which includes lots of people who struggle with chronic depression and anxiety.

Here are a few ways you can avoid turning to food for comfort and exercise discipline during this self-indulgent season of the year.

1. Stay hydrated

Your body is composed of over 70% of water, so it’s important to stay well hydrated. Also, thirst doesn’t appear like thirst straight away. You will first feel mild hunger before feeling thirsty. That’s why it’s important to drink a lot of clean filtered water.

2. Stick with your healthy morning routine

If you stick with your healthy habits in the morning, your digestion will be better and you will feel great all the time. Start your days with an exercise, even if you can only fit in 30 minutes every day. That way you won't be feeling guilty through out the day you haven't completed a work out. A cup of hot water with a dash of fresh lemon juice upon waking up to help cleanse your body is great for your immune system. Then have as many green juices as you wish throughout the day. This will help your body to detoxify and get nourished.

3. Nibble on Dark Chocolate in the Morning

Dark chocolate often satiates the urge to engage in addictive behavior for a few reasons:

First, it has one of the highest concentrations of magnesium in a food, with one square providing 327 milligrams (mg), or 82 percent, of your daily value — and magnesium is our calming friend. According to a study published in January 2012 in Neuropharmacology, magnesium deficiencies induce anxiety, which is why the mineral is known as the original chill pill.

Dark chocolate also contains large amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that works as a precursor to serotonin and theobromine, another mood-elevating compound.

I find that eating a few squares of 90 percent chocolate a day — oftentimes in the morning — quiets my impulse to binge the rest of the day on sweet breads and chips. And the Reese’s cups up above the kitchen cupboards are terrible for my mood.

4. Beware of sugar-loaded foods

The Christmas period is abundant in foods high in refined sugars and unhealthy fats. Try to be aware of these foods and limit your intake. They are usually harder to process, digest and they are bad for your general health. But don't be fooled. It's not because you avoid refined sugars that you can't enjoy a delicious healthy treat. As long as you keep it in moderation.

5. Fill up your plate with veggies first

Always take a big portion of fresh veggies or salad before putting anything else onto your plate. They are easy to digest and packed with nutrients and vitamins. This is all you need to feel good physically, mentally and emotionally. Veggies will also fill you up quickly and help you to beat sugar cravings.

6. Don't starve yourself

Eat regularly and avoid restricting yourself all day long to save up for the special evening dinner. Otherwise, you will end up so hungry you will probably stuff yourself at night. Not a good option at all!

7. Be careful with alcohol

Alcohol contains lots of sugar and we usually tend to eat more after a few drinks. If you want to enjoy a drink, always go for the quality instead of the quantity. Choose something very nice, appreciate it and be mindful about what you are putting into your system.

8. Let moderation be your mantra

The secret always lies in moderation and balance. Be reasonable and listen carefully to your body signals. Always choose quality over quantity. That is the key to make healthy choices, enjoy each moment and avoid overeating.

9. Don’t Isolate Yourself

According to Howard Samuels, PsyD, author of Alive Again: Recovering from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, the No. 1 symptom of holiday depression is isolation.

“Many who suffer from depression, anxiety, and alcoholism are convinced that the cure for loneliness is isolation, when the truth of the matter is, it’s not,” he told me a while back in an interview. “It’s a struggle, I’m sure, but when you find yourself having the blues, sometimes the best thing for you to do is get out amongst the people.”

Most of us do our hard-core emotional eating when we are isolated, so by surrounding ourselves with people, we not only help our mood, but also protect ourselves from destructive behavior.

10. Don't be so hard on yourself!

Remember the holidays is about enjoying yourself with friends and family. Don't beat yourself up about how much you weigh and how you look. I know the pressure of being around people at parties can be stressful at times. You always want to come off as this perfect image, but as long as you feel mentally and physically healthy, that's all that matters! Be confident in yourself.

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