The festive season is in full swing and the big day is nearly upon us.
Food is a big part of the Christmas celebrations and most people find themselves eating differently from the rest of the year.
Here are our top tips for approaching the holidays with a non-diet mindset, ensuring you eat happily and healthily this Christmas.
Mindful eating is all about being fully present while you eat, paying attention to the food, and avoiding any digital distractions.
Christmas needn’t be about monitoring and restricting what you eat. Instead, savour the smells, tastes, and textures of your food. Enjoy the company of others, and try not to rush the mealtime experience.
You can read more about mindful eating here.
Listen to Yourself
Listen to your body’s cues - it will tell you when you’re full. Remember that you don’t have to clear your plate – box up your leftovers and know that you can enjoy them tomorrow.
That being said, remember that overeating from time to time is normal! If you find yourself feeling uncomfortably full – don’t panic, the feeling will pass. Go for a walk, have a peppermint tea, or do some gentle stretching to aid your digestion.
Other people may push you towards eating a specific food or eating more than you want to. How many times have you heard “oh go on, it’s Christmas!”.
Don’t feel pressured into eating (or not eating) something based on what someone else has to say. Allow yourself the freedom to choose what you eat and how much you eat. You know your body best!
Ditch the Regret
Enjoy your food without attaching any feelings of guilt or regret; there’s no need to compensate with exercise or periods of restriction.
Let go of any idea you need to restrict yourself in the run-up to a big meal – eat your usual diet and enjoy the amazing ‘fun’ foods that this season has to offer. By starving yourself in the run-up to a meal, you’ll find yourself ravenous, meaning you’re more likely to overeat.
Keep your meals as balanced as possible by including some protein, wholegrain carbohydrates, and healthy fats, and make sure you’re getting plenty of veggies, fruit, and water.
Don’t let food rules or worries about weight spoil what is meant to be a joyful and celebratory time of year with your loved ones.
Remove the Focus from Food
Don’t underestimate the other aspects of our health that benefit from full participation in the festive season. Sitting down to a beautiful dinner with family, sharing a cheeseboard with friends, or eating chocolates with colleagues bring plenty of benefits for our social and emotional health. But only if we give ourselves permission to enjoy them guilt-free and shame-free.
There’s so much to enjoy at this time of year – being with loved ones, socialising, sharing and giving, and general goodwill – don’t allow food obsessions to occupy the festive period.
Food Restriction is Largely Ineffective
You may think that applying strict rules to your food intake over the Christmas holiday period will prevent a huge amount of weight gain. However, the results of a study examining the effect of a weight control intervention over the Christmas period suggest the opposite.
The intervention, which aimed to restrict eating and drinking, consisted of participants regularly weighing themselves, recording and reflecting on their weight. They were also provided with weight management strategies and information regarding how much exercise would be needed to burn off the calories in popular Christmas foods and drinks. Participants in a control group received a leaflet on following a generally healthy lifestyle.
The participants who had followed the intervention lost an average of 0.13kg over the festive period – the weight of a large banana. The difference in average weight gain between the participants in the intervention group and those in the control group was 0.49kg – just over one pound!
Though just one study, this research demonstrated that applying a strict diet mentality over the Christmas period may only prevent a very small amount of weight gain, raising the question: is all that food restriction, obsession, and avoidance of your delicious festive foods worth it?
Get Ready for the Diet Culture Deluge
Prepare yourself for the inevitable post-Christmas gym membership advertisements and influencers selling diet plans and weight loss products. These misery-sucking initiatives are all designed to monetise your insecurities.
A good question to ask yourself is: “is somebody set to gain financially by making me feel bad about myself?” If so, this may be something to avoid. Be ready for it, but remind yourself that you do not need to atone for any indulgences you’ve made during the most wonderful time of the year.
People tend to focus heavily on what they eat during the last few weeks of December when this only makes up a tiny fraction of our year. Concentrate on building good habits and a well-rounded relationship with food all year round.