How to manage food addictions during the holidays - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

How to manage food addictions, avoid overeating during the holidays

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The holidays remind us of family get-togethers sharing food, laughter and bonding. If you are a food addict, the holidays may be one big guilt ridden binge. Food addicts think about food and have memories of food too, but they will most likely be linked with memories of hiding food, being punished by withdrawal of food, or being abandoned from loving relationships and using food for comfort. This is one reason the holidays are so stressful for people who struggle with food addictions. The frenzy and excitement brings stress, and food addicts comfort and calm their stress with food.

Many people don't understand the obese person's journey with food. Nor can they relate to actually being under the influence of the intense food cravings, but ask any alcoholic or drug addict what these cravings feel like, and a food addict will be able to recount a very similar craving. The substance most craved with food addicts is sugar, and anyone who has tried to remove sugar from their diet knows how incredibly difficult that can be.

The majority of food addicts have been brought up with another addiction. Maybe their parents were alcoholics, abusive, gamblers, smokers or hoarders. The child learned it was safer to turn to food or some other substance for comfort, because turning to a human for a hug or soothing words was impossible. Many food addicts lose weight to get married, only to find that they don't have the skills to communicate loneliness, boredom, or anxiety to their partner. They slowly begin to turn to what has helped soothe them in the past, which is food. Before long, communication is compromised in the relationship. There is severe weight gain, which begins a disastrous cycle of withdrawing from sex, and turning to food. Soon the partner isn't happy and the food addict feels shameful and guilty. These feelings of guilt and shame lock the cycle of turning to food even more securely. Weight loss surgery can help minimize disease and help people become more confident and mobile, but if there is an underlying sugar or food addiction, the weight will be re-gained. Sometimes that is in excess of eighty pounds.

How can you help if you are addicted, married or know a food addict during the holidays? The key is to plan now.

1. Realize that your partner or friend has a bigger problem than just eating too much. They need professional help, and they need it now. Find out who is on your plan for insurance and what it allows for help with eating disorders.

2. Begin journaling your intake and talk to your partner about journaling theirs as well. This helps you become a team and to feel supported.

3. Encourage your partner to begin turning to you for comfort or if you are alone, have someone who can accompany you to the party. Stay close to them, and when you feel alone turn to them for conversation or hold their hand. This helps delay your sense of needing food.

4. Help them join a food addiction group, and if they are your partner, go with them if they need your support. There are several in Houston, and "Over Eaters Anonymous" offers a 12-step program for food addicts.

5. Your partner suffers shame and guilt every day. Try to remember this, and be gentle. There is a lot of secrecy in this disorder. If they let you in, respect that.

Food addicts are hurt, and we as a society can become part of the problem or part of the solution. Most addicts of food (and other addictions) have an enabler. The enabler complains about the behavior, but also supplies the fix. People who are co-dependent or have a low self-esteem may derive their security from enabling an addict. If you live with a food addict, or you suffer a food addiction, the best thing you can do prior to going to the party or being with friends where a lot of food will be present is to have a plan. Set a time limit for yourself at the party and have someone you are accountable to who helps you stay on track.

– Mary Jo Rapini

*As with all addictions, interventions only work if the addict wants to heal. Harping, nagging and pleading will be met with resistance to change until the addict is ready to make the change.


Most people gain 3 to 5 pounds over the holidays. After the holidays one of the reasons many people become depressed is due to their out of shape bodies. Waiting until the New Year to shed a few pounds usually finds you carrying the additional weight you gained during the holidays into spring. By planning your holidays to include exercise and healthy choices, you don't have to gain weight and you can still have a wonderful holiday.


Why does overeating happen more during the holidays?

1. Variety brings back emotional memories, images and feelings.

2. The holidays come only once a year and are stressful…food is comforting for many.

3. When we are stressed, upset or feeling lonely sugar can give us a high.

4. Food is associated with good friends, parties and feeling connected.

How do you avoid overeating?

1. Before a party eat something hot. Things such as soup are wise choices so your tummy will be full.

2. Avoid over drinking…in most cases over drinking causes overeating in that order.

3. Make the holidays more about relationships than food.

4. Try a small variety of many things instead of eating a whole pan of one thing.

5. Exercise at least 10 minutes each day. This helps you relieve stress and is much healthier than food.

6. Eating won't help you deal with a breakup, boredom, or isolation, but reaching out for a good friend will. Avoid going to parties alone and when you go with someone ask them to help you limit your intake.

7. Eat until you are comfortable and then stop. Overeating is hard on your heart, liver and stomach.

8. Journal your feelings so you won't have to eat them.

9. Learn to say "NO" to someone who is pushing food on you.

10. Bring your lunch to work and limit yourself to one holiday goodie in the work kitchen.

Preparing yourself and your family to focus more attention on the meaning of the holidays and less on food served will strengthen your family's communication and bring a deeper sense of gratitude for one another.

– Mary Jo Rapini

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