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Amanda’s Journey to Health

Changing her life, inspiring others.

Emotional Eating and the Holidays

By Anna Fritz, Health and Wellness
December 9, 2015

Amanda Davies made a decision to overcome obesity after tipping the scales at 270 pounds. Today she’s down 75 pounds and has energy like never before. She’s sharing her story in the hope that she’ll inspire others. Follow Davies’ journey through a series of blog posts over the next few months.

Amanda Davies has fought every single day for more than nine months to overcome years of deeply ingrained thoughts and beliefs.

“So much of changing my habits has been mental and emotional,” Davies said. “I’ve had to change everything, including how I think about myself. I’ve had to tell myself over and over—and truly believe it—that I’m worth it, I deserve to be healthy, and I’m capable of doing hard things.”

When it comes to food, Davies said her habits ran deep. “I like the quote, ‘You’re not a dog; don’t reward yourself with food.’ It makes me laugh but it’s really true. We have such a connection with food as a reward.”

People turn to food for reward or comfort because it’s often tied to pleasant memories and feelings. When they’re under stress, angry, afraid, anxious, bored, sad, lonely, or even tired, many people try to relieve these feelings with comforting foods, which are often high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat. 

The holiday season is rife with these types of comfort foods, said JoAnn Campbell, a therapist with St. Luke's Clinic – Psychiatric Wellness Services. “You’re facing an abundance of special foods and celebrations. You may be feeling like you can give yourself permission to eat more because it’s a special time of year. You also may be experiencing increased stress from a change in routine, travel, and the work and thought that goes into preparation for the holidays.”

When it comes to dealing with food and the holidays, Campbell has this advice: “The first item on the agenda is to have compassion and understanding for yourself. It also helps to focus on other aspects of the holidays besides food. Consider what’s truly meaningful to you and make those activities and people your priority. You don’t have to be perfect. Sharing your love and gratitude—and yourself—is what really matters.”

Amanda Davies ran in the Turkey Day Run in Boise this past Thanksgiving Day, starting a new holiday tradition that celebrates her healthy lifestyle.

Campbell also offers these tips:

  • As much as possible maintain your normal daily routine including regular sleep, exercise, and meals. Starving yourself early in the day will set you up for overeating later on; so will fatigue and lack of physical activity.
  • Have responses on hand to tell others or to reinforce for yourself when faced with offers of holiday foods, such as “Yes, treats look and smell good, but I’ll feel better later if I stick to my eating plan.”
  • When going to a buffet or potluck where there will be a wide variety of food available, look over all that’s offered and choose your five favorite items. Place them on a smaller (salad) plate and remove yourself from the serving area. That way you’ll feel less tempted to overeat, but not feel deprived of what you enjoy.

Today Davies’ best reward is the way she feels—no longer tired, sluggish, and weighted down from poor food choices. Feeling good gives her the strength and incentive to never let her guard down and fall back into old habits.

“I have a huge emotional connection to food, especially around the holidays,” Davies said. “There are so many happy memories and beloved traditions tied up in food—the taste, the smells, the preparation, the sharing.”

She’s been making the most of the holiday season for herself and her family. Just like she’s done for the past nine months, she’s watching her portions and focusing on plant-based foods, lean protein, and healthy fats. And she is starting new holiday traditions, like running in the Thanksgiving Turkey Day Run. But her greatest joy comes from creating healthy versions of her favorite foods, like the pumpkin muffin recipe below. “I don’t have to starve myself and be miserable,” she said. “I’ve found new ways to enjoy food. It’s exciting and fun, and I get to be really creative.”

Pumpkin Muffins

Amanda Davies shares recipes, tips, and stories on her motivational blog and Facebook page, “Fit and Fabulousness,” including these pumpkin muffins. Delicious pumpkin is a favorite at Thanksgiving and Christmas, full of warm holiday memories. These muffins are free of grain and dairy; Davies estimates they’re about 115 calories each.

½ cup coconut flour
1 cup pumpkin purée
¼ cup melted coconut oil
4 eggs
¾ tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350. Combine pumpkin, eggs, melted coconut oil, and honey. Mix well until completely combined. Mix dry ingredients together except baking soda. Add dry ingredients to wet; combine. Add in baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and mix. Place in 12 muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before eating.

About The Author

Anna Fritz is a writer and editor with St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing.

Related Clinic

St. Luke's Clinic – Psychiatric Wellness Services: Boise
703 S. Americana Blvd.
Suite 150
Boise, ID 83702
(208) 706-6375