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A Fresh Approach to Eating

How to Overcome Stress Eating During the Holidays?

Do you seek comfort from food when you are stressed but wonder what to do instead of stress eating? Check out some of these tried-and-true tips from people who have been successful finding other ways to limit stress during the holiday season!

What Causes Stress Eating

We often hear of the holidays as a time to eat drink and be merry. For many of us, it is the time that we feel the need to do more with less time and resources.

It is also a time where we set ourselves up for unreasonable expectations for not only ourselves but others. It sets us up for lots of stress. For many people eating may feel like it can help but in the long run it may contribute to excess weight gain and other health conditions.

During the holidays many of us get less sleep, less exercise and often eat less healthy. We may also have to spend more time indoors visiting people who seem to purposely do things that annoy and upset us.

But you may be wondering, “How can I reduce stress?” Below are some alternative ways to help relieve stress without using food.

Why is Stress so Unhealthy?

In small doses, stress can be manageable but too much stress can lead to elevated blood pressure, anxiety, depression, stroke, irritable bowel syndrome and a weakened immune system. Muscle tension associated with stress can cause headaches and even migraines. Over the long term, chronic stress may contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and GI conditions.

And for many of us, our ways to manage our stress may be additionally harmful. Some of these include increase alcohol or drug use, binge eating and other additive behavior. It is no wonder that stress may add $300 billion dollars a year in health care costs and lost productivity.

If stress becomes unmanageable on our own, it is important to seek help from a therapist, doctor or both.

candles and incense can be great ways to relax
Find the best way for you to decrease stress!

Here Are Ideas of What to do Instead of Stress Eating

If you are wanting to know what to do instead of emotional eating during the holiday season. Here are some healthy ways to reduce holiday stress that will provide you some ideas of things that you can do instead!

Exercising to Reduce Stress

Here are a few ways to use exercise to reduce stress, but first of all consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program and to add it gradually. Exercise can help reduce the hormones that contribute to stress like cortisol, and it helps increase the feel-good hormones called endorphins that may help elevate our mood and reduce stress.

Another way that exercise helps is that it helps us temporarily get away from our stressors and helps us relax afterwards. I love to hike, walk my dog or attend Zumba with my friends. What activities do you like to help you get more exercise?

Hobbies to Reduce Stress

I love to use hobbies to help reduce my stress. What hobbies do you really love that would be rewarding to do during times of stress? Some of my favorites include knitting, sewing, gardening and cooking. It can be also helpful sometimes to tackle a needed task as a way to me to feel empowered and a sense of accomplishment afterward like cleaning out a closet, cabinet or a drawer. Many people also love to read, write, listen to music, play music, sketch or color!

Guided Meditation to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Practicing mindfulness by truly being present in the moment and paying attention to the immediate while breathing slowly and paying attention to your breathing is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, a progressive meditation that includes tensing and relaxing each muscle group while listening to soothing music may help us feel totally relaxed. I like having the lights low during this relaxing time because I feel even more relaxed when bright lights aren’t in my eyes.

For many people prayer is a way to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also provide a lot of comfort and hope.

Other relaxing things include take a hot bath or showing or taking a nap especially if you are sleep deprived.

Games to Reduce Stress

What games are helpful to help reduce stress? Card games, crosswords, word searches, sudoku and board games can be a great distractor and help relieve stress. Sports are both a game and exercise and may be more of your thing! Have a fun time and getting away from your stressors can be extremely helpful!

Laughter to Reduce Stress

We have often heard that laughter can be the best medicine. This may be especially true when it comes to stress. Stock up on a few joke or cartoon books. Read the “funnies” in the newspaper. Share a light-hearted joke with a friend. Watch a funny movie. It is a great way to cheer up in addition to reducing stress.

Social Support to Reduce Stress

Reaching out and calling a friend (or texting) can be very healing. If you can meet up in person, that may even be better. There is a lot of benefits to the power of touch. These include hugs, handshakes, hi fives or a pat on the shoulder.

Gifts to Reduce Stress

Here are a few gift ideas that you can give someone that you care about things that can reduce stress:

  • Gift certificate for a massage or facial
  • Herbal teas like lemon balm or hops
  • Essential oils like lavender, bergamot and geranium
  • Soothing music, funny movie or inspirational book

For additional ideas, checkout Healthline’s list:

25 Best Stress Relief Gifts to Promote Relaxation in 2022 (healthline.com)

Foods that Reduce Stress

People often wonder if foods reduce stress or if food or a diet can reduce. Although there is no magic food that reduces stress, an overall healthy diet can help alleviate stress. The article below from AARP highlights foods that can help someone feel a little calmer. These include:

  • Fatty fish like salmon and trout which are high in omega 3 fatty acids that promote brain health
  • Probiotic rich foods like fermented foods. In addition, prebiotics are important foods that help nurture the probiotics. Prebiotics include broccoli, walnuts and almonds.
  • Foods rich in magnesium which include leafy greens, beans and nuts.
  • Adequate protein first thing in the morning (see article below for suggestions). Protein helps manufactures serotonin a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Certain spices have beneficial plant chemicals that may help reduce anxiety and depression. These include saffron, turmeric and ginger
  • Having enough vitamin D is important reducing stress. Although, vitamin D is found in foods, it can be very difficult getting enough from food. It is also known as the sunshine vitamin. Some people have genetic tendencies to run low, so it is important to have vitamin D measured in your blood to make sure that you are getting enough.

Solutions for Lowering Stress Through Diet and Habits (aarp.org)

Here are some recipes rich in some of these foods:

Mediterranean Salmon Crostini
Mediterranean Salmon Crostini (vineripenutrition.com)

Garbanzo Tomato Curry
Garbanzo Tomato Curry (vineripenutrition.com)

Apple Blueberry Tofu & Kale Salad
Foods that make women feel amazing (vineripenutrition.com)

Tangy Yogurt Dessing Recipe for Kale Salad
I love the fresh zesty flavor of this yogurt cilantro dressing over the whole food kale salad.

Here are a few additional ways to reduce stress and stress hunger from one of my previous blog posts:

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress – Vine Ripe Nutrition

Great Ideas for Taking Stress Off of Your Plate During the Holidays

Here are a few suggestions to help lower the stress during the holidays:

  • Learning to say no. When somebody asks you to do something and it is optional plus you don’t have a passion to do it, “just say no”.
  • Scratch unnecessary things off of your list. Sometimes, I make a list and as time gets closer to when I need to complete it, I may just scratch off the nice to do but unnecessary things off of my list.
  • Take time for yourself and practice self-care.

Here is a pdf that you can download to get additional tips to reduce stress over the holidays.

This is the graphic to the pdf on tips to reduce holiday stress
Get some tips to reduce holiday stress!

Now that You Know What to do instead of stress eating

We have talked ways to reduce emotional eating and I hope that you have a lot of new ideas that you can try. This year instead of being more stressed during the holidays, try De-stress & De-compress this year!

As an Asheville NC registered dietitian nutritionist, I love to help people make some changes that make a difference in their lives. I look forward to hearing what has worked for you in helping you reduce stress.

If choosing the foods to help you feel your best along with planning, shopping and prepping meals adds to your stress, working with a registered dietitian nutritionist may help. Here are some ways that we can work together Nutrition Consultation – Vine Ripe Nutrition Work With Me

Here are some great tips to de-stress that you can use any time of year.

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