By Dr. Susana Marikle
Clinical Psychologist at Pamper Your Mind
Food and drinks have a unique place in our culture – they are symbols of affection, comfort, celebration, family, and togetherness. In every culture around the world, special food and drinks feature in the way holidays are celebrated. There’s a reason we have “birthday cake”, “Christmas cookies” and “Hanukkah latkes”. Each of these foods have become so attached to the event they celebrate that it wouldn’t seem like the special occasion if you didn’t eat them! But how often do we turn to food and drinks when we are looking for reassurance, distraction, consolation, or simply because it is available?
During our upcoming holiday season, many of us will eat and drink far more than we normally do because we are surrounded by friends and family in celebration mode. There are lots of reasons we overindulge: intense emotions will often lead us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. For example, what happens when you are having a hard time putting on your celebration face because you are coping with grief in the midst of all this joy? Or when you’re stressed out at a tense family function? Or when you are uncomfortable at the company party? Or when you are so happy to see everyone that you can’t turn down all those refills?
Many of us use the comfort and reassurance food provides to create “good” feelings and to drown “bad” feelings. The holiday season is a time when food, drinks, and emotions are all flowing freely and it is very easy to get caught up in the tide.
A good first step to dealing with any of these circumstances is to acknowledge the emotions you are experiencing in the first place. Second, it may be helpful to check in with yourself and see if there is a more fulfilling way to manage those emotions besides food and drinks. Third, trying different strategies to make sure you use those strategies before you turn to lasagna, kugel, gravy, or pie. For instance, giving yourself 20 minutes before you head back for second helpings, or drinking a glass of water between alcoholic drinks, or using your coping skills to manage emotions like sadness, stress, or resentment.
Ask yourself: What do I need? What is the best way to get my needs met?
The key is to maintain a healthy level of mindfulness.