The holidays are a time of joy and celebration. They are a time for us to give, to be inspired, and to be thankful for all we have. To that end, most of us view the holidays with tremendous fondness. However, even for those of us who love and look forward to the holiday season, it can still present challenges. It always seems that there is too much to do and too little time. We juggle our over-packed schedules, trying to find time for all of the family gatherings, work functions, events for the kids. We travel through crowded airports, or make our homes available to travel-weary family members from out of town. We stress out about buying the perfect gifts for our family and friends, not wanting to disappoint while also trying to manage a budget. And then…there is the food!!! Most of us can’t think about the holiday season without also visualizing an endless line of cookies, pies, fruitcake, and on and on. The combination of holidays and food might not be a trigger for some, but for a wide population, food-related stress, anxiety or guilt can be as synonymous with the holidays as all of the wonderful and positive memories of the season.
If you’ve ever used food to soothe emotion, you’re in good company. Food does work (temporarily) at easing an emotional hurt or pain. Dopamine (a feel-good chemical) gets released in the brain when eating certain foods, providing you with a very real emotional relief. Unfortunately, if you are eating when your body is not hungry (or restricting when your body is indeed hungry), that good feeling may be very short lived (ex. guilt, shame, physical discomfort).