• 20Dec

    Five Tips to Overcoming Emotional Triggers During the Holidays

    Eating is often psychological. Our culture has a tendency to equate food with comfort and care. On the flip side, many people struggle to control emotions by controlling what and how they eat, resulting in eating disorders (i.e., food addiction), which are often associated with emotional triggers.

    Some people turn to food as a comfort or coping mechanism when they are feeling sad, anxious, angry, stressed or depressed. Typically, eating to cope with one of these emotions becomes a mindless activity. Whether it’s a hamburger and french fries or a box of cookies, we can overindulge and overeat in an effort to feel good.

    Holiday Meal

    Others rely on rigid diet restrictions for a feeling of control over seemingly out of control lives or emotions. For individuals whose eating disorders — be it binge eating, anorexia or bulimia — are triggered by emotions, the holidays are a particularly stressful time of year.

    Holiday celebrations can evoke strong emotions, from tension among family members, to grieving lost loved ones or anxiety about travel or being around people.

    If you are struggling with an eating disorder, here are 5 tips for overcoming emotional triggers this holiday season:

    1. If you are an emotional eater who tends to binge eat when emotions run high, focus on eating foods that will stimulate your brain while providing nutrition, without overloading on excess sugar and fat. Foods that contain nutrients such as Omega 3 fatty acids, saturated fats, folic acid, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D can help boost mood, without negatively affecting health. These nutrients can be found in foods such as salmon, grains, soybeans, oatmeal, shellfish, cottage cheese, wheat germ, milk, egg yolks and fish bones.
    1. Make time for healthy exercise to help combat emotions during the holiday season that may trigger disordered eating. Exercise creates endorphins, which can help combat depression, anxiety and stress — all of which are triggers for a number of eating disorders. Maintaining a regular, healthy exercise routine will help to boost mood.
    1. Seek emotional support from friends, family or therapist. Attempting to deal with emotional triggers alone can result in irrational thinking, which may enable further progression of your eating disorder. Friends and family of individuals with eating disorders may provide support by simply offering an ear to listen.
    1. Participating in hobbies, sports and other activities that boost happiness and self-esteem may also help combat negative emotions during the holidays.
    1. Most importantly, know when to say “no.”  Think, “HALT” and never go to a holiday party or gathering if you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Identify the scenarios that may cause the biggest pitfalls for you, and know that it’s okay to decline an invitation if you feel it may only trigger unhealthy behaviors. If you feel attending a particular event will be too much of a struggle for you, don’t hesitate to politely decline the invitation. While the holidays are certainly not a time of the year to be alone, only you know if attending a particular event or being around certain people will trigger your eating disorder. When choosing which events to attend, select those that are not food-centric. If you do choose to participate, don’t go without your wingman — someone who knows your triggers and how to help you avoid the pitfalls that might lead to a binge/purge episode, for example.


    If you are suffering from an eating disorder, seek counsel from a professional. A therapist or counselor will be able to equip you with a plan to avoid emotional triggers, tailored to your specific needs.

    Eating disorders can cause serious health complications. If you or someone you love suffers from binge eating, compulsive over-eating or bulimia, seek help from a professional.