Avoiding holiday stress and emotional eating: do less, be more

This busy season, I’m sharing a series of simple, habit-building challenges for staying in touch with the spirit of the holidays and avoiding overwhelm, stress, and emotional eating. Create these habits and routines now, and you’ll also be building a strong foundation for your year ahead.


Emotional eating and holiday overload, and overwhelm

I’ve coined a term – the three Os. The Os stand for overwhelm, overload, and overeating. The 3 Os are  major traps for smart, busy women, and they tend to travel together. Overwhelm and overload are recipes for overeating – emotional eating in particular. When you’re busy and stressed, food becomes more tempting. Food is easy. Food can (temporarily) calm, numb, reward, and distract us. When we’re stressed or overloaded, our brain is tapped out and we’re more vulnerable to making the decision we don’t want to, or choosing the old, automatic behavior (reaching for another holiday cookie).

Emotional eating (overeating) can increase during the holidays because there are usually more tempting treats; because the holidays can come stuffed with emotions and challenges; and because it’s a time of year that many people feel more stress and overwhelm.

One way to escape the trap of the three Os is to focus on quality over quantity. Let’s talk about this – quality time, quality work, and quality holiday experiences. But first, a story:

My neighbor’s kitchen window looks into the window of another neighbor. One December, very late at night, this other neighbor got a phone call. Her neighbor was concerned because, up late herself, she had glanced out her window to see the woman in her kitchen, doubled over and grimacing and holding herself, obviously in great pain. She wanted to make sure she was okay, and, she later confessed, she was concerned she should call an ambulance. “Oh, no,” my other neighbor reassured her. “It happens every year. I’m just making my annual 100 dozen, hand-shaped holiday cookies that I share with everyone because they love them so much. My back always goes out when I have to be bent over like this for so long.” Both of them later told me the story. The cookie baker was laughing, and planning to have the same experience the next year. True story.

Quality time, quality work, and quality holiday experiences

We can only do what we can do, and we have limits – real limits. And if what we want to do is something that we want to do well, we should usually try to do only one thing at a time. I’ve worked with many women who seemed to believe that if they tried hard enough or learned how to get it just right, they would find a way to increase the hours in their day and get more done (they usually end up sleep deprived and struggling with overeating).

Sometimes, the mark of a truly competent, talented person, is the ability to say, “This is really all I can do” when they’ve reached a healthy limit (not when they’re at the point of total, back-wrenching collapse).

Our multi-tasking, consumer-driven society would have you believe that more is always better. It’s not true. We know it in our hearts, but it’s an important truth to really embed in our heads as well.

In most situations, especially meaningful ones, quality work beats more work. Five pounds lost with ease and left behind forever, feels more satisfying than ten pounds lost in a carb fast that you know will come back as soon as your willpower fades and you eat bread again. The perfect gift that hits the right chord is ten times more satisfying (all around) than five gifts the recipient doesn’t value.

The space and time to be present, instead of overwhelmed, overloaded, and overeating, is necessary to create quality – and to create memories.

This season, commit to doing less and being more.

There’s a theme to these habit-building challenges. Move deliberately, at a pace, and in a way that works for you. Know where you are going and move in that direction. To do these things, it helps to stay clear about what you are passionate about and what your priorities are. You also want to be mindful of the wrong turns and detours and bright shiny objects (or “shoulds”) that might distract you from your path and that create overwhelm and stress.

Your do less, be more challenge:

Be open and curious. Look for the detours and wrong turns – the requests and demands that pull on you and that you don’t really want or need to spend your energy on. Practice being aware of them and practice saying “no.”

Adopt a new mantra: “I’m doing less so I can be more.”

You’re going to be more selective about what you do so that you can show up brighter, be more present, and deliver on the quality, both for others and for yourself.

When you say “no” to the dead-weight obligations that drag you down, fill up your space, and deplete your energy, you create powerful space and energy in your life that you can spend on the things connected to your passion and your purpose. This is the space where quality comes from, and this is the space where you will create the experiences that you will savor this season and into next year.

Here’s today’s action step:

Make a list of three things, obligations, expectations you have, etc. (big or small) that will pull you away from spending your energy in more valuable places. Be honest, this is a guilt-free zone. Now, devise a way to either eliminate them (say “no,” delegate, or simply cross them off your list), or limit the time and energy they will take in your life.

Doing less to be more can require building muscle. It gets easier with practice and the payoff is huge.

Take good care,

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Emotional Eating Coaching Program

Your Missing Peace: The Coaching Club is the group coaching program where smart women discover their power to create freedom from overeating and peace with food – with more ease and joy than they ever thought possible.

If you’re a smart, busy, high-achiever who’s tired of going in circles with overeating and emotional eating, and you're ready to create results that last, check out The Club today!

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