The festive season can be a tough time to start making dietary changes or keep up with goals that you have created or are working on. More social occasions, temptations available and the whole ‘It’s Christmas’ mindset.

Whilst we want you to enjoy this time of the year, we also do not want you to end up feeling like you have ruined your hard work so far when that certainly isn’t the case.

Read on to find out more on our 7 best tips of being mindful and moderate over Christmas, so you can be present in the moment and feel in better control during this season. Leading to less stress and anxiety about gaining weight or falling off track, and more time spending time with loved ones.

This will mean that you can enter the new year feeling happier, not needing to go on another diet or quick fix (as we all know they just don’t work!).

1. Eating before a social occasion

If you have festive occasions, parties, social events – do not arrive too hungry! Do not ‘save calories’ or intentionally skip meals in the day or days leading up to these events. This can backfire, as you are prone to then end up feeling famished before going out somewhere which will likely have a large choice of snack and food options. It will then be harder to be aware of your appetite and how much you need to eat to be full, leading to overeating.

So it may be worth having a snack before you leave for the event, if you feel peckish, to prevent you from getting too hungry. Something with a source of protein such as Greek yoghurt, some nuts or cheese with a piece of fruit, should satisfy you long enough to manage your appetite better for a social occasion.

2. Eating mindfully

You may have heard the term ‘mindful eating’ being thrown around a lot but are unsure of what it actually means? Well, eating mindfully allows you to be present in the eating experience, to enjoy it slowly and finish feeling fully satisfied and comfortable. When you are eating, try to reduce distractions to allow the mind to focus on the food – what are you eating, how does it smell, taste? Do you enjoy this? Are you still enjoying it when you are almost finished, or not as much?
Work with your dietitian if you unsure of the concept of mindful eating, to learn and explore this more together.

3. Scan the options

When you arrive at a party, if there are lots of options available, we can sometimes get this desire to want to try it all! However, this time, take a moment to scan the table – what options are available, what looks particularly good and what are you not too bothered about? Instead of going down the line and piling the plate with the first things, think about what you really want. This way, you get to enjoy what you truly like and feel satisfied, rather than feeling like you are missing out and then overeat.

4. Take a moment to pause

When it comes to a Christmas dinner, it’s all too common to back for seconds or thirds, especially when the food is so tasty and there is so much of it! Instead, once you have finished your plate, pause and allow yourself around ten minutes to then decide if you want second helpings, or if you want to perhaps save some space for the dessert you know will be following later. Or perhaps, you may feel comfortably full already – and there will always be future opportunities to enjoy these foods again another time! Instead of leaving the table feeling overly full and needing a bit of a lie down (we have all been there before!), try this technique this year, to see how you feel. However, if you find that you are not full yet, do have more and eat slowly until your stomach is comfortably full. Maybe you can use the hunger & fullness scale to help you assess your levels of hunger here? If you are not sure what this is, discuss with your dietitian today!

5. Watch alcohol intake

Alcohol can often be a big part of the festive season, and it’s easy to perhaps have one too many and not feel great the next day! However, if you try to slow down your pace of drinking, alternate each alcoholic drink with water and ensure you always keep water with you when drinking, this can help you with keeping better hydrated. It will also naturally slow down the rate of alcohol consumption, which will only benefit you especially the next day! Or perhaps you want to try out some good non-alcoholic alternatives this Christmas? Great for a present idea! Be aware that alcohol intake can also influence appetite, and make us feel hungrier than usual – so try to drink when eating your planned meal, rather than an empty stomach.

6. Be kind to yourself

We want to enjoy the festive season and leave long lasting happy memories. So please try not to put any additional stress on yourself for not eating certain foods, or joining in on the fun. If you find that you do overeat or drink on occasion, try to use this as a learning experience – can you do anything differently next time? And then move on, don’t dwell on what you can’t change!

7. Find a balance that feels good for you

Look at your overall festive calendar – maybe you have a few social occasions, but you are in your usual routine for the majority of December? If so, for those days where you will not be visiting family or attending social events, try to eat well balanced, nutritious (and tasty!) meals, as well as keeping active. Though again, try not to diet or severely restrict in these days, as it can then lead to binging. If you find that you are out for meals/drink for the majority of the week, really use these tips to help re-enforce eating slowly until you are comfortable, and perhaps think about having some low alcohol/alcohol free occasions. But remember, Christmas comes around once a year, and it’s really what you do the majority of the time that makes the difference in the long term!

By Reema Patel, Registered Dietitian based in London and Surrey at Dietitian Fit & Co

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