Navigating Emotional Eating During the Holidays

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and often, indulgence. For many, it can also be a period of heightened emotions, stress, and, subsequently, emotional eating. As a registered dietitian, I understand the challenges that emotional eating can pose during this time. In this guide, I’ll share strategies to help you maintain a balanced relationship with food and manage emotional eating during the holidays.

1. Practice Mindfulness:

   Mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing emotional eating. Before reaching for food, pause and ask yourself if you’re genuinely hungry or if you’re eating out of stress, boredom, or other emotions. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and make a mindful choice.

2. Identify Triggers:

   Pay attention to the emotions and situations that trigger emotional eating. Keep a journal to track your feelings and what you eat when you’re not physically hungry. Identifying patterns can help you develop healthier coping strategies.

3. Create an Emotional Toolkit:

   Develop a list of non-food ways to cope with emotions. This might include going for a walk, practicing deep breathing, journaling, calling a friend, or engaging in a hobby. When you feel the urge to eat emotionally, turn to your toolkit first.

4. Plan Meals and Snacks:

   Don’t skip meals or go too long without eating during the day. Skipping meals can lead to intense hunger, making emotional eating more likely. Plan balanced meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar stable.

5. Practice Portion Control:

   Enjoy holiday treats in moderation. Instead of restricting yourself, allow yourself to savor small portions of your favorite foods. When you eat mindfully, you can enjoy the flavors without overindulging.

6. Stay Hydrated:

   Sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure you’re adequately hydrated. Herbal tea can also be a comforting and soothing choice.

7. Engage in Regular Physical Activity:

   Incorporate regular exercise into your routine. Physical activity can help reduce stress, improve mood, and boost self-esteem, making it an excellent way to combat emotional eating triggers.

8. Seek Support:

   Don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist, counselor, or a registered dietitian who specializes in emotional eating if you’re struggling. Professional support can provide strategies tailored to your needs.

9. Set Realistic Expectations:

   Be realistic about your holiday goals. Understand that it’s okay to enjoy special holiday foods without guilt. The key is to find balance and not turn occasional indulgences into a binge.

10. Mindful Eating at Gatherings:

    When attending holiday gatherings, focus on the social aspect of the event rather than solely on the food. Engage in conversations, enjoy the company of loved ones, and savor the flavors of your favorite dishes in moderation.

11. Practice Self-Compassion:

    Be gentle with yourself. Remember that it’s normal to experience emotions, including stress or sadness, during the holidays. Instead of beating yourself up for emotional eating, practice self-compassion and forgive yourself.


Managing emotional eating during the holidays is a journey that requires patience and self-awareness. By incorporating mindfulness, identifying triggers, and building a toolkit of healthy coping strategies, you can navigate the emotional challenges of the holiday season more successfully. Remember that seeking professional support is always a valuable option if you find that emotional eating is significantly impacting your well-being.