How holiday stress makes us turn to food

Many people turn to food to help them cope with the stresses of the holiday season, new research has found. However, the study showed individuals could unwittingly pile on the pounds if they eat more to feel better when dealing with family members and uncomfortable social situations.

Stefanie Barthmare, a Psychotherapist with the Methodist Weight Management Center in Houston, noted Christmas can be a troublesome time for those who use food as a comfort mechanism.

Ms Barthmare said: "Getting to the root of your problems and finding better ways to deal with them without food will help you avoid putting on extra unwanted pounds this holiday season."

She explained many individuals make poor decisions with regard to food when in a stressful situation because they use it as a distraction to the challenges they are facing.

As a result of eating too much over the festive period, people many be giving themselves more problems to contend with in the new year, such as a reduction in self-esteem, Ms Barthmare added.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Emma Short comments:

"The demands we experience everyday and the resources that are available to help us deal with them, predict how well we will cope with these demands. Being at home with the family during a holiday presents a different set of demands to the ones we deal with on a daily basis, added to this is there are also changes to the ability we have to access our usual coping responses. It may not be possible to do the things we usually do to diffuse tension.

"It is true that for some people food becomes the first line of response to fluctuations in mood caused by perceived stress and that can be increased when other options are reduced."