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How to Deal with Anxiety Around Food During the Holidays

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mizzou chapter.

The holidays are a time of celebration. A time to enjoy the company of our friends and family. Unfortunately, the holidays can also make us feel anxious, especially around food. With holiday parties serving dips, alcohol and desserts galore, it’s hard to resist the urge to indulge. Eating and drinking more caloric foods is normal during the holiday season. However, it is not normal to feel guilty about the foods we eat. 

Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told WebMD that the average person gains 5 to 7 pounds during the winter. 

Cheskin goes on to say that most of the weight gain does not come from cold temperatures and shorter days. Overeating stems more from emotional distress, such as seasonal affective disorder or clinical anxiety. 

I typically gain 5 pounds without even realizing. From festive Starbucks drinks and endless Christmas cookies, I’m consuming double the sugar I’m used to. Forcing myself to get up and exercise is also a struggle in the winter. The worst part of it all is, we are forced to feel guilty when New Year’s Day hits. Surrounded by “health” ads, we set unrealistic goals for our New Year’s resolutions. 

So can we have a healthy relationship with food without restricting ourselves? 

1. Not your plate, not your place

If possible, avoid toxic situations with people who make you stressed or anxious when it comes to eating. Of course, that’s not always possible during the holidays. When someone comments on food choices, weight gain or diet, set boundaries by telling them you won’t discuss your body or your diet. If you want to be less direct, simply redirect the conversation. Lastly, just as you don’t appreciate unwanted comments about what you’re eating, those around you don’t want you commenting about their plate. Be mindful when talking about food. 

2. Plan ahead and bring your favorite “safe” food

What is a “safe” food? These are foods that you and your body are comfortable with. If you know you’re going to attend parties with tons of unhealthy food choices, bring safe options for yourself. For example, I try to bring a vegetable platter with homemade dip. You can bring things such as fruit, hummus or nuts. However, it can sometimes be too tempting to eat the homemade dessert someone else brought, rather than your broccoli and dip. If this is the case, eat food beforehand. Aim for foods that include carbohydrates and protein so that you don’t starve and end up overindulging at the party.

3. Shift the focus away from food 

Holiday gatherings focus on the food and drinks almost as much as gift-giving, Christmas trees and lighting the menorah. Walk away from the food and try and keep yourself distracted by doing things non-food-related. Try playing a funny card game or doing something festive, like decorating or caroling. 

4. Give yourself permission to indulge

People have different ideas and rules when it comes to food. But restricting yourself or labeling foods as “forbidden” takes the pleasure away from eating. When you eat something you don’t really enjoy, you often feel deprived which can lead you to eat more to fill a craving. To avoid binging, allow yourself to enjoy the foods you want. You will be more satisfied and less anxious.

 By making small changes and smart choices, you can spend less time stressing over your diet and more time celebrating the holidays with loved ones. 

Kate Lickert

Mizzou '23

Hello! I'm Kate Lickert and I am a Junior at the University of Missouri. I am a Strategic Communications Major within the school of journalism. I am a current writer for EMI Network, HerCampus Mizzou, and Mizzou Tri Delta's blog. This past summer I was a writer for Vox Magazine based in Columbia, Mo. After graduation, I plan on pursuing a career in marketing, branding, development, or design.