It’s the time of parties, platters and plenty of food! The festive season has to be the best time of year! But along with the festive season comes a lot of stress and worry over the social gatherings, and more specifically, the food that will be there.
I’m not stranger to this. In past years, in the months leading up to the festive season, all my thoughts were consumed with planning how I was going to navigate the nibblies and the Christmas Lunch and the ‘forbidden’ Christmas Dessert Table… but never once did it go to plan. But this year is different, I’ve transitioned to intuitive eating and am confident I can handle myself around all the yummy Christmas food this year without obsessing, without feeling guilty and without overindulging.
So I’ve put together a few little tips to help you too navigate the festive season. These are things that have worked for me on my intuitive eating journey and what I will be applying to the festive season for myself. So I hope these tips help you find joy, happiness and peace at this time of year, with food and with your body.
1. Give yourself permission to eat without restriction
We often set ourselves hard-and-fast rules about the foods we can and cannot eat around this time of year. “I cannot have any of the Christmas Trifle this year”. Problem is with this kind of restriction is, it often leads to binging on these foods because we perceive them as ‘scarce’ or something we can’t have. Instead of telling yourself you can have any of the Christmas Trifle, give yourself permission to enjoy a bowl, and keep in mind you can have more later, you can make it again at another time throughout the year and the Trifle is not scarce so there is no need to ‘overindulge’. When you give yourself unrestricted permission to enjoy these foods, you’ll find you have no desire to binge on them because they are always available to you.
2. Plan to make your favourite holiday treat some time in the next year
A lot of treats come out around this time of year that are only really associated with Christmas celebrations; for me its Christmas Pudding and Trifle (oh the Trifle *drool*). So because we feel like we are restricted to enjoying these treats on just Christmas Day, we often find ourselves justifying that 3rd serving of Pudding or Trifle or whatever your indulgence of choice may be. But why not plan to make it another time throughout the year? So that way you can effectively fight that voice inside your head telling you to go back for thirds because you know more is coming in a few months from now and thus, there is no need to overindulge.
3. Practice mindful eating
At Christmas events that involve food (well that would be all of them), try and be mindful of your eating. Be sure to regularly check in with your hunger and fullness cues. These sorts of gathers always have so much food around from the second you arrive to when you leave. Ask yourself, are you just eating because the food is there and within reach and because everyone else is? Or are you eating because your actually hungry or really want that food
4. Let go of the ‘all or nothing’ thinking
When you get a flat tire, do you go and slash all 3 remaining good tires? Of course you don’t! And same principle goes for your eating. Don’t get sucked into the ‘all or nothing’ thinking this festive season. If you eat some gingerbread or potato salad at a festive gathering, don’t feel like you’ve ‘failed’ and then go onto eat another 2 servings of potato salad & Christmas Ham and 3 servings of Christmas Pudding because you had one little indulgence. Nutrition isn’t all or nothing, you can indulge and enjoy treats this festive season without undoing all your hard work or going ‘out of control’. So let go of this way of thinking and indulge mindfully, just because you have one slice of cake, doesn’t mean you have to eat the entire cake.
5. Remember, your body can handle the food you eat and the ‘imperfect’ eating
Your body is incredible, it is capable of breaking down every bite of food and turning it into energy. Your body doesn’t recognise the difference between a salad and a slice of Christmas Pudding, it only recognises food by the nutrients it provides. So its not going to automatically break down when you feed it some festive treats. If you do overindulge, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve ruined your health or done something terrible. Your body can handle it, in fact, we all overdo it occasionally. Your body is more than capable of handling this. What is important is that you forgive yourself and practice kindness and compassion with your thoughts through this time.
6. Focus on people and memories, not food
Being with loved ones and the people who bring you joy is really what this time of year is all about. Don’t let your struggle with food get in the way of that. Be with your family, make memories that will last a life time and don’t let food control you or your happiness at this time. Remember what really matters.
7. Fill your plate with salads and veggies first, then add on a portion of everything else you want.
When it comes to navigating the Christmas Lunch or Dinner buffet, I like to fill my plate firstly with all the delicious salads and roast vegetables and then add on a portion of everything else that I really want; for me that things like Christmas Ham, potato bake, coleslaw etc. The key here is to not restrict yourself or tell yourself certain things are ‘off limits’. Allow yourself the freedom to enjoy a sensible sized portion of whatever it is that catches your eye. And know, you don’t need to go overboard, you can always go back for seconds later if your still hungry. Treat this first round as sort of a ‘taste tester’ plate – anything you really love and crave more of, if you are still hungry, you can go back for more! And in knowing this, you won’t feel the need to binge on certain foods and end up with that uncomfortable post-Christmas fullness and bloat were all too familiar with.
Overall, just remember to take time during the festive season to enjoy time with loved ones, and of course enjoy all the yummy food that comes at this time of year too! Be mindful, be present, listen to your body and enjoy this period for all the joy it brings without an ounce of guilt.