Can you curb emotional eating during the holidays and enjoy a slice of Gingerbread?

Posted on December 5, 2012


I started up Spotify’s Ultimate Holiday Playlist, danced to the kitchen, and hummed above the noise of the mixer. It’s early December, and I have been craving holiday spirit. And my attempts to satisfy that craving have all involved sugar. Cookies, pie, gingerbread.

Gingerbread Bundt

Emotional eating occurs throughout the year for many people and is characterized by the tendency to eat while experiencing negative emotion. This often leads to overeating, especially of the stuff that’s not so good for us. Comfort foods are sought during such times to do just that, provide comfort. Yet often times while chomping in an emotional state, it is hard to even enjoy the experience of eating.

The weeks before winter’s big holidays are often anxiety-ridden, and with those anxious feelings often comes emotional eating. So when holiday treats are in abundance, what is the best way to curb emotional eating and enjoy both good food and the spirit of the season?

I thought about that as I was making this gingerbread, and I realized that I get quite an emotional high just from baking. I think it is because I am looking forward to sharing my baked goods with others, many of whom I don’t get to see except during the holidays or don’t have a chance to share meals with during the year. So then, eating during the holidays for me means sharing strong emotions with everyone around me through the enjoyment of special holidays foods. Mostly desserts actually, and almost always positive emotions. The food doesn’t even need to be prepared by me. I am a grateful cookie tin recipient!

So if I’m feeling good while biting into my favorite Christmas cookie, will one be enough?

I think the answer is yes, but only if I am mindful of how I am feeling, including my mood state and my level of hunger. I have learned that one of the best ways to overcome emotional eating is increasing “interoceptive awareness,” or a strong sense of exactly how you are feeling in the moment. I am blessed to be surrounded with loved ones this holiday season, and so that is what I am going to focus on this year.

Gingerbread might not necessarily equal happiness, but it is a great complement. At least one slice. (And maybe for breakfast.)

Gingerbread Bundt

This recipe is adapted from my most reliable home cookbook. I changed quantities to fit a bundt pan rather than the 9 inch square pan called for in the original recipe. The recipe uses water instead of milk and a unique method of melting the butter right in with the molasses. It turned out super moist and cakey! I forgot that I didn’t have powdered sugar, so I pulsed some granulated sugar in a food processor and got a great sparkle effect.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake
adapted from
The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook

3 cups flour1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup light molasses
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups boiling water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the glaze: 1 cup white sugar, puled in food processor about 1 minute
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a standard bundt pan.

Combine flour, white sugar, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; stir until blended.

In separate bowl, combine molasses, butter, and water. (Be sure to measure the water after it has come to a boil.) Stir until butter melts. (This took a few minutes because I had refrigerated my jar of molasses.)

Add molasses mixture and beaten eggs to flour mixture. Whisk to combine. Continue whisking until smooth, or use an electric mixer and beat for two full minutes. (Using the mixer will give a more cake-like texture.)

Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Prepare the glaze by combining the sugar and cinnamon with water or milk, if desired.

Cool in pan on a wire rack. When fully cooled, use a thin spatula to release cake from sides and middle of pan. Turn out onto plate. Glaze and decorate with candied ginger pieces if desired.

Gingerbread Bundt