As much as you love Christmas, does the thought of all the food and drink at Christmas freak you out a little bit? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? All the chocolates, sweets, puddings, lavish dinners, party food, and alllllll the alcohol! Even as an experienced intuitive eater you may still feel like this.
So let me give you some ideas for how you can continue your intuitive eating at Christmas.
By the way, if you’d like to listen to this one as a podcast episode, you can do that here…
1. See the good in all food
As an intuitive eater you know that all food has something good that the body can use. If you’re new to this you might want to take a look at my post on finding the good in all food. Christmas is no exception to that.
So one way to make peace with your Christmas eating is to embrace all the positive aspects of all foods. Acknowledging that everything you eat has its own unique goodness, whether that’s physically or mentally, nourishing or simply delicious, can help you appreciate the variety without any guilt.
So to maintain that intuitive eating at christmas remember to give yourself that unconditional permission to eat all foods. By letting go of the “good” or “bad” labels on foods, knowing that all food has something to contribute, you empower yourself to savour the festive treats without worrying about possible consequences or restrictions that you might make because of them.
2. Know that the Christmas food actually IS available all year round
I know the novelty of having lots of food suddenly available that isn’t available all year round can create a response in you that makes you want to eat lots of it, because it will be gone soon.
But what if I could show you a different way to think about this – what if you knew that you actually could have the Christmas food all year round?
Boxes of chocolates: Quality Street, Roses, Heroes, Lindt…. Examples of chocolates that seem to be everywhere at Christmas. We tend to eat loads of them because of the novelty of them being there. But those chocolates are in the shops all year round. It’s just that we tend to only eat them at Christmas. So knowing that, could you allow yourself to have them around more often, and take away the Christmas novelty factor?
And even if the particular type of chocolate isn’t available outside of Christmas, you can guarantee that there will be something similar. Can’t find your favourite green triangle, what about finding a different bar of chocolate that has a similar nougat centre? Can’t find the box of Heroes? You know you can buy the full size bars of the chocolates that are in the Heroes boxes, right?
Mince pies: These aren’t available all year round. What is available though? Pastry – you can make that yourself, or buy it ready made from the supermarket. Mincemeat – again, you can buy it ready made, but if you can’t find it or you fancy giving it a try yourself here’s a lovely recipe from the wonderful Mary Berry. And there’s always sugar available for that sparkly little sprinkling on top to decorate. Imagine being the person who turns up to a friend’s house or your office with mince pies in the middle of June. Brilliant!
They are just a couple of examples, but with a little creativity you can absolutely have all those different Christmas foods all year round. The novelty has gone. Back to intuitive eating at Christmas!
3. Don’t restrict food now so that you can eat Christmas food
Planning ahead for the Christmas feast by skipping meals beforehand might sound tempting, but it could lead to overeating the foods that you’re actually trying to make a little bit of space for.
Remember the binge-restrict pendulum (find it here if you need a refresher) – you think that by restricting you’ll eat less calories and then the Christmas food won’t matter, but it will likely have the opposite effect and the resulting binge response will create a larger intake of calories, with a side helping of guilt.
Intuitive eating at Christmas means eating what you want and need according to what your body is asking for at any given time, so if you start restricting ready for the Christmas food you’re going against those intuitive eating cues.
Keeping up with your regular eating routine sets you up for enjoying the holiday goodies without feeling overly hungry.
4. You can still be intuitive in your eating
Tuning in to your body’s cues during the holidays is like giving yourself a superpower! It will help you navigate Christmas meals without feeling uncomfortably stuffed.
Intuitive eating at Christmas still looks like listening to when you’re hungry or comfortably satisfied, and then making decisions on how much you want to eat based on that. How much Christmas dinner do you want? Are you ready to eat pudding straight away or would you like to wait a while until you’re less full, and when you know you’ll enjoy it more?
It can also look like deciding what type of pudding you want. Do you want the hot, gooey sticky toffee pudding with custard, or the cold, sweet pavlova?
It’s about maintaining the awareness of the types of food you want to eat, how it feels to eat it, and how your body is feeling hunger, fullness, and satisfaction wise.
5. Eat consistently
Our eating habits do change at Christmas, there’s no doubt about that. Chocolate for breakfast? Yes. Cheese and biscuits every night for a week? Yes. Leftovers in the middle of the day? Why not!
But having your usual frequency of meals and snacks, and having a good variety of foods in your day, will at least help maintain some balance. It will keep your body happy, and it will make sure you feel that you’re not missing out. The FOMO is real with food, so keep it coming regularly to stay satisfied.
6. Choose clothes that make you feel good
Part of intuitive eating is body respect. It’s being kind to your body. This includes dressing in clothes that are comfortable and feel good.
When your clothes are comfortable you think about your body less often. If Christmas is a dress down affair for you be sure to wear clothes that will feel comfortable all day long. I love that in Friends Joey has his Thanksgiving pants, which are actually Phoebe’s old maternity trousers. They’re giving all the stretch, so eating all the food won’t mean he’s spending the rest of the day with his jeans unbuttoned.
But it could equally be wearing that dress that makes you feel fantastic! A good tip here is to have a couple of different options for Christmas party outfits before the day, so that on the day you can be guided by what your body feels like and what you feel suits you and your mood that day. Wearing clothes that make you feel confident and relaxed can help you focus on enjoying the moment without worrying about how you look.
7. Don’t worry about what other people are eating
Intuitive eating at Christmas means eating what YOU want to eat. It doesn’t matter what others are eating.
If they’re having a starter and you don’t want to because you know you’ll feel uncomfortably full later then don’t have one.
If everyone else is ready for pudding and you’re not, ask for yours to be set aside and you’ll have it later.
And if this is a ‘now or never’ situation with the food being offered, and you really don’t want it now, feel free to say no to it and feel empowered in doing so. There will be other lovely things you can eat later instead.
8. Focus on the memories
There is so much more to Christmas than just the delicious food. Although the food does play a part in the Christmas memories, there are also lots of other things you can remember from that time. Things that are, in my opinion, more important to remember.
Savour the beautiful moments spent with your loved ones, friends and family. Enjoy the sharing of gifts. Watch the excited kids (and how it catches up with them later and they get a little overtired and tearful!). Feel the warm and fuzzy feeling of the period. Heck, even enjoy the argument when your husband is caught cheating at the new board game you’re playing.
Embracing the joy of making memories can shift the focus away from food-related stress and help you to appreciate the experience of Christmas as a whole.
9. Set boundaries and take time out
These steps for intuitive eating at Christmas will help, but the overwhelm can be very real, so remember to take moments out for yourself during the festivities if you need to.
Whether it’s a short breather in the bathroom, a walk outside, or moving to a different space to do something you love, these breaks are vital for maintaining your peaceful relationship with food and protecting your mental health.
You don’t have to justify it to anyone. If you need the time out, take it. Sometimes a moment to yourself, or even walking with others, can provide the break in the day that you need.
10. Give yourself some kindness
Whatever happens, however you eat, whether you maintain your intuitive eating at Christmas or not, please give yourself some kindness.
Intuitive eating is not a diet plan. It’s not something that you have to ‘stick to’. It’s not a wagon that you fall off. It’s not something that you will ‘start again Monday’.
Intuitive eating is just being in touch with your body and your emotions.
If at this time of year you don’t eat as intuitively as you would like to, that’s fine. It’s not something to feel bad or guilty about.
For a lot of people Christmas is a stressful time, and food is the last thing they want to think about.
So follow these tips as much as you can, and if you don’t, don’t worry about it. Your body can guide you back when the madness of the festivities are done.
Whatever you are doing for Christmas I hope that it is your version of wonderful and that you can really enjoy it.
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