Christmas is a time of plenty. It seems the holiday season these days has become synonymous with eating lots, drinking lots and having all of the things the rest of the year we’re ‘not allowed’.
But how about this year NOT having one last splurge before the January diet kicks in? Why not treat it as a time to really enjoy festive food and drink in a way that still makes your body feel good?
Beware of the “I’ll be good in January” club!
Try and eat in accordance with your hunger and fullness whenever possible. Overeating in December and trying to make amends in January isn’t healthy and only leads to out-of-control feelings around food.
If there are certain foods associated with this time of year that you eat just because they’re there but you don’t actually like that much, why not try just saying: “nah, they’re not my favourite so I’m going to hold out for something I really love”. The power and sense of freedom that comes from exercising your right as an adult to only let food past your lips that you’re going to truly enjoy is immense.
There’s only so much Christmassy food you can eat so pick only those that you REALLY love. Try not to be persuaded to eat those foods you don’t really like.
“I always over-eat at Christmas…” For many this might seem the case but I challenge you to think back to Christmases of past and really think about whether this is true. Sure you might have on occasion in the run up to and around Christmas eaten past comfortable fullness, but all December long? I don’t think so. This is, however, especially likely if you frequently skip meals in anticipation of a meal out or restrict through the week to splurge at the weekend. Hunger is a powerful being and means we’re so much more likely to over-eat on foods we don’t actually enjoy.
I’m positive there will be times that you naturally listened to your body and ate when you were hungry and stopped eating when you were full. Whenever you’re able this festive period try and get in touch with these signals. In particular try not to get too hungry, this can make you less likely to choose something that’s going to nourish your body.
If you’re hungry, eat!
Instead of hitting a party with a huge buffet starving and diving in head first, have a snack before you go. You’ll then find it much easier to really savour what you choose and eat until comfortably full.
“But what do I choose..?” What you eat this time of year really isn’t going to make a huge impact on your long-term health so above all else enjoy what you have. Stressing about what you’re going to have and then beating yourself up for it after just isn’t worth it and that alone is likely to have a bigger impact on your health (which remember includes physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing).
If you’re sacrificing important social occasions in the name of health that you know will encourage that warm glowing festive feeling then you’re doing things wrong. Have a think about what your priorities are this time of year.
Try something new
If you’ve always turned your nose up at Christmas day Brussels sprouts why not give them another go? Eating a wide variety of different types of food helps us get a good balance of nutrients.
Christmas lunch can actually be a very well balanced meal if you really want to get down to specifics. The protein from turkey or plant-based alternative (this is an awesome recipe for nut roast, just fyi) combined with fibre-foods from root veg, stuffing, roast potatoes and veggie sides combine to give one satisfying meal. So rather than piling half your plate with one type of food, if you want the most nutritious plate opt for a little bit of everything.
Oh, and also… fuck the ‘no seconds rule’. If you’re not feeling quite satisfied by your first serving and aren’t yet comfortably full then hell yes go for some more. It’s probably kinder to make sure your body is fully satisfied by your meal than to restrict yourself and then be craving the selection box later on.
“But…but….” No buts. It’s absolutely fine to have nourishing foods that give you energy AND fun foods that nourish the soul. It can seem scary to allow yourself this but restricting yourself to either can be negative:
‘Good’ food only = this leads to feelings of deprivation that can build up cravings for the foods you’re consciously not allowing yourself. This just makes it all the more likely that when you undoubtedly give in you’ll over-eat and fuel those feelings of being crazy around certain foods.
‘Bad’ food only = this may be what you’re scared will happen if you let yourself eat what you want. And sure for some this might be what you choose to eat the majority of time for a while. But think about it, if all you’re living off is pigs in blankets and mince pies, soon enough your body will be wanting more variety and the lack of energy and/or gut discomfort will be making the sprouts and roast carrots seem all the more appealing.
Savour every bite
Eating mindfully whenever you’re able to this holiday (and throughout the year!) and really paying attention to delicious scents, tastes and textures will help satisfy you with less food.
We are SO lucky to live in a society where we have the freedom to celebrate in comfort and just as we wish. So appreciate what you have and enjoy yourself. We only get Christmas once a year so love lots, be kind to yourself and have satisfaction as a priority.
“There is nothing in the World so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour” –Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
For the keen readers and evidence checkers amongst you
The Guardian (2013). The Pros and Cons of Eating Out at Christmas. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/nov/30/pros-cons-eating-restaurants-christmas
Don’t Salt My Game (podcast). How to have a non-diet holiday season. Available at: http://www.laurathomasphd.co.uk/podcast/ep69/
Newtown Nutrition (2017). Intuitive eating at Christmas – how to eat to appetite when others are feasting. Available at: https://newtownnutrition.com.au/intuitive-eating-christmas/