Don’t use food to mask underlying problems |

Don’t use food to mask underlying problems

by Jerry Vance

Are you a nervous eater? Do you eat because you’re mad, because of stress or social pressure, or to please someone else? It doesn’t matter why; at the end of the holiday season, it still adds up to another inch of fat.

Attending a social function can be hard on anyone’s nerves, and facing a group of strangers at a party can be devastating, especially if you’re the shy type. So you eat, and you aren’t conscious of what you put in your mouth – just the satisfaction of holding onto something during a stressful situation. You eat to cover the uneasy, unsure feelings that result from social pressures.

Nervous and reward eating begin as a child. The reward for an injury or stressful situation was a trip to the local Dairy Queen or a graham cracker or at least a trip to the refrigerator. Putting hand to mouth seems to soothe pain, stress and jangled nerves. The child who sucks his thumb is doing it for satisfaction or comfort. It’s the same hand-to-mouth movement we use as adults.

The fact remains that when you start the holiday party cycle, you get more nervous as the night wears on. And the more tired and nervous you get, the more you eat and drink. Your stomach knows you’re full, and your body knows you’re tired; it just doesn’t have any control over your mouth.

And if the calories come in liquid form, it’s worse. They slide down a lot faster, and you notice them less. Most people at a dinner party or a cocktail party are not even aware of what they are eating or drinking.

Here are a few hints:

• You could have someone follow you around and take your plate or glass away from you. That’s not realistic. But you can hold a glass of water with ice cubes that looks like a drink. Holding on to something fills your hand and relieves tension during party conversation.

• Find a quiet corner now and then and take a few deep breaths. You’ll be surprised how many people you’ll meet in that corner. Have your baby sitter come an hour early and let her watch the kids while you take leisure time to prepare for your party.

• Be a little aggressive and infiltrate into conversations and ask questions about the other guests. I have been to parties – I’m sure you have too – at which no one bothers to discover the interesting facts about the people around them. Party social interaction is work, particularly at this time of year.

• Turn your metabolism to slow before you arrive at the party, then relax and enjoy yourself.

• Jerry Vance is the owner of Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through the Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.