Wintertime during the holidays means full social calendars and even fuller stomachs as we enjoy the generous hospitality of our friends and family.
Generally, the extra festivities during the winter holidays wouldn’t be a problem if our focus was on enjoying the love and companionship, rather than what was laid out on the table.
However, family gatherings and social events can trigger anxiety. There are concerns and worries about the preparation, the cost, the deplorable state of the economy, and whether you are in line for the company bonus this year.
For many, the go-to coping mechanism is to eat their way through the mounting stress. After all, there is an overabundance of comfort food on offer, which means that eating is a convenient and readily available solution.
The stress hormone, cortisol, is part of the body’s flight or fight mechanism and so is only meant to be a short-term solution for dealing with danger.
If you’re constantly feeling stressed, you will have excessive levels of cortisol flowing through your body. One of cortisol’s roles in the body is to regulate the use of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins which can compel you to reach for a second helping more often than not.
As a coping mechanism to deal with anxiety, overeating can soon lead to an addiction that is hard to break. Eventually, it’s not just the holidays causing over-indulgence. Every time stress and anxiety loom, it’s the pies and the sweets which get you through the day.
Unfortunately, coping with stress by eating leads to other complications, many of them life-threatening. Excessive consumption leads to obesity, and obesity can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
There are plenty of physical problems to contend with when you are overeating. However, the psychological mechanisms at play can also block you from focusing on the real issues, such as your emotional state and your level of stress.
We’re not saying you should shun that extra piece of offered pumpkin pie. But if the pie is your entire reason for showing up, and it’s been your obsession for days leading up to the event, then it may be time to consider that your eating has become a problem.
There are several markers you can use to determine if your eating has become a problem:
- Is your eating is causing discomfort or distress in others, or making them unhappy?
- Do you regularly use food to deal with stress and anxiety?
- Do you continue to assert that you can go on a diet any time you wish?
- Do you get irritated about other people’s insistence that you practice some restraint and stop overeating?
- Are you making accommodations in your life because of your weight?
- Do you anticipate and look forward to the times when you can eat alone?
- Do you feel guilt or remorse after overindulging?
- Do you often have binge sessions just because you feel like it?
- Are you eating even when you are not hungry?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, then it might be time to plan a recovery strategy. Talking about your problem with a professional therapist may help you realize why you feel the need to overeat and provide insights about how to rectify the situation.
Therapists will also be able to provide recommendations where you can get extra help and discover other coping mechanisms which have a healthier outcome. A food program will help you reduce your overeating, get you back to a healthier weight, and restore you to good health.
You may still dream about enjoying that extra serving or two. However, you will have come to understand that it’s not the answer to your problems and that living a healthy, happy, and active life is the best way to cope with the many stresses life can throw our way.
Overcoming overeating on your own can be challenging, but the good news is that help is available. Find out more here: Habits & Addictions