Don't Turn to Holiday Food as a Way to Deal With Stress: Expert

SUNDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- People dealing with stress during the holidays who turn to food for comfort could be setting themselves up for weight gain in the New Year, an expert warns.

"Many of us will gain anywhere from seven to 10 pounds from the middle of October through the end of the year because of all the fatty foods available at parties and other gatherings," said Stefanie Barthmare, a psychotherapist with the Methodist Weight Management Center in Houston. "If you're not careful those numbers could easily double very quickly," she added.

"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," Barthmare suggested in a hospital news release.

For many people, food is a distraction from what is really troubling them, she noted. "We are using food for coping and comfort -- and of course, we know eating is not the answer," Barthmare said. "All the food does is cause the number on the scale to creep up, causing a whole host of problems with health and self-esteem."

Barthmare offered easy and inexpensive suggestions for ways to cope with stress or problems without turning to food, including:

  • Take a walk

  • Call a friend

  • Read a book

"Join a support group where you can talk about your problems and discover positive ways to fix them without eating," Barthmare added. "It's important to interrupt patterns that send you to the pantry."

She also advised that talking to a counselor or dietician can help people develop healthier coping strategies.

"If it was just a matter of knowing the calorie difference between a piece of cake and broccoli, we would all be our ideal weight," Barthmare concluded in the news release. "Maintaining a healthy weight requires a disciplined approach mentally and physically. Finding a way to refrain from using food to help you feel better is the key. Unfortunately, it's complicated and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about weight control.

SOURCE: Methodist Hospital, Houston, news release, October 2012

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