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Letting Go of Emotional Eating during the Holidays

by Barb Raveling

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and many of us are waking up thinking, I can’t believe I ate so much yesterday! We’re surprised we ate so much, but we shouldn’t be. After all, it’s Thanksgiving. Most of us have a habit of eating too much on Thanksgiving!

Not only do we have an assortment of yummy foods available, but we’re also experiencing more emotions than normal. We may be with people we love and feel like celebrating. Or with difficult people and feel like comforting ourselves. Or maybe we’re all alone for Thanksgiving and our loneliness drives us to eat more than normal.

Whatever the reasons, it’s pretty common to overeat on Thanksgiving. If we only overeat one day, though, it’s not a big deal. But when we overeat for a whole holiday season—Thanksgiving to New Year’s for example—that can add quite a few extra pounds to our lives!

So how do we keep from giving into overeating when everything in us wants to relax and enjoy life! Eat those Christmas cookies! Drink that eggnog! Overindulge at that holiday dinner!?

In the old days, I couldn’t make myself eat with control during the holidays. I just didn’t have it in me. It wasn’t until I started renewing my mind that I finally found control with food.

Paul talks about the renewing of the mind in Romans 12:2 where he tells us, “Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” This works for anything we want to change, including using self-control with holiday eating!

When we renew our minds, we’re taking off lies and putting on truth. We’re also taking off a cultural perspective and putting on a biblical perspective. And we’re taking off what we learned growing up and putting on what we learned in the Bible. Let’s see what this would look like with holiday eating.

Taking off lies and putting on truth. One of the lies we believe that trips us up during the holidays is, “More is better.” The truth is that more is not always better. Think of it this way. Are ten pieces of pumpkin pie better than one piece? Are seven rolls with butter better than two? And are five glasses of eggnog better than one?

I think we’d all say no to those questions. Yet normally, we grab another piece without thinking because we believe that the more we eat, the happier we’ll be. When we stop to think, though, we realize that’s not true on a practical level (if we eat ten pieces of pie in one sitting, we won’t enjoy it), a health level (nor will we enjoy the health consequences of more-is-better eating), or even a spiritual level. In Luke 12:15, Jesus said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one is affluent does his life consist of his possessions.”

When we take the time to see our eating practices through eyes of truth, it makes us want to eat with control.

Taking off a cultural perspective and putting on a biblical perspective. One of the ideas we learn in the culture is, “You deserve a break today!” So when we’re busy Christmas shopping, sending Christmas cards, decorating and making holiday meals, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We start thinking, “Hey!! I deserve a break today!!” And before we know it, our break has turned into an all-out Christmas cookie eating session!

Yet here’s the thing, the Bible doesn’t say, “You deserve a break today!” Instead, it says things like, “Lay down your life out of love for the brethren,” and “Serve one another in love.”

The Bible also doesn’t tell us we need to do a whole long list of Christmas chores. Instead, we remember Jesus telling Mary, “Only one thing is necessary,” when she was rushing around with meal preparations. Stressing out about our to-do lists during the holidays can drive us to emotionally eat, but taking time out to spend with God will refresh us.

Adopting a biblical perspective of both eating and doing will help us want to eat with control.

Taking off what you learned growing up and putting on what you learned in the Bible. One of the things I learned growing up is that it’s okay to overeat on the holidays. My parents never taught me this; I just learned it through experience.

For example, when we went trick or treating, we’d come home with a pillowcase full of candy and eat with abandon until it was gone. When we made Christmas cookies, we’d eat dough throughout the process. So much dough that I felt almost sick!

Fast forward to adult life, and of course I believe, I should eat what I want, it’s a holiday! Yet the Bible doesn’t echo that! It does talk about feasting and celebrating around food, but it also tells us to have self-control. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

When I put on this Bible verse, all of a sudden, I’m not thinking I have to eat everything at the table and then some. Instead, I’m sitting back and thinking, what’s the best amount to eat so that I still get to enjoy this food without the consequences of poor health, constant food cravings, achy joints and next-day regrets?

Taking the time to examine what I learned growing up through the lens of Scripture makes me actually feel like eating with control.

And that will lead to welcoming in the New Year with no regrets!

Barb Raveling is the author of eight books, including her latest, Say Goodbye to Emotional Eating. Her top-ranked podcasts, Taste for Truth and the Christian Habits Podcasts, have earned over a million downloads and continue to inspire people to break free from their strongholds and grow closer to God. Learn more at


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