One time, before the holidays, I had a particularly trying week. I had worked way too many hours at the office and had spent too little time in bed. Every project I took on seemed to grow. I had agreed to be interviewed for a television show on marriage and all of a sudden the show became a two partner. My husband and I decided to buy new drinking glasses for the holidays. (It's hard to ask your guests to drink out of Mason jars.) After visiting four stores and lugging the glasses home, I found myself not only picking off those little price stickers and washing the glasses, but straightening out the entire dish cabinet.
When I dug out the Christmas decorations, I somehow found myself reorganizing the basement closet. But instead of feeling accomplished when the task was complete, I felt more anxious and weary. I could see now that the entire basement needed an overhaul. So on Friday night, feeling tired and distressed, I walked in the door, threw my papers and books in the hall, and headed for the can of cashews. Nothing can make me feel better so fast as a few big handfuls of nuts.
When my husband saw me munching away, he said with a grin, "I thought you weren't going to eat those any more?" I said defiantly, "I changed my mind." Five minutes later, I felt better.
One might argue that I was hungry, and that's why I headed for the cashews. But no, I had a late lunch. I wasn't particularly hungry. I was anxious about everything that I needed to get done before the holidays.
It is now believed that about 75% of our overeating is a result of our emotions. Think about it. Your boss gives you an added project. What do you do? You think "Snickers" and head for the candy machine. Your mother calls and starts complaining. While listening, you open the refrigerator and peruse its contents. You learn that you're being promoted. You immediately make plans to celebrate with pizza and beer. Whether we are anxious, mad, frustrated, happy, or sad, our tendency is to calm our emotions by eating and eating some more.
So you don't join those millions who will gain anywhere from five to fifteen pounds during the holiday season, ask yourself: What's likely to happen in the next few weeks that's going to cause me emotional turmoil?
One woman when asked this question answered, "Gift wrapping."
She does all the Christmas shopping and all the gift wrapping. She doesn't mind the shopping but she hates to wrap. And her husband refuses to wrap. He tells her he can't do it as well as she does. He tells her to leave the gift in the bag from the store.
As the woman told her story, I could see her neck turn red.
Another woman said what will get her emotional juices going is that her sister's family will be late for Christmas dinner. "They'll be several hours late and my parents will want me to hold dinner, while everyone else, including my husband, will want to eat."
A guy I see in therapy predicted that his wife will be unhappy with her gifts. "If I go all out, she'll complain about the money I've spent. If I don't spend much, she'll say I don't care." He says he's never had a good Christmas experience with his wife. It's likely that all three of these people will overeat to quell their emotions.
The woman who will be wrapping those gifts says she's most likely to eat chocolate chip cookies. The woman who feels caught between her two families will justify two desserts. And the man who can't seem to please his wife? "Chocolate turtles."
Emotions are part of what makes us who we are. But we don't have to feed them Oreos, cashews, marshmallows, potato chips, and pizza.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,“ and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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