Christmas is a time of the year that is full of festivities, getting together with loved ones and enjoying the season of giving and sharing. All of this can bring in certain challenges if you have certain health goals that you are working towards at this time.
In this blog, we want to highlight some ways to help you enjoy your festive season without any feeling of guilt or negativity.
Rules & labels
One thing to move away from is trying to follow strict rules – because every time you ‘break’ a rule, you will just feel bad and eventually give up! Instead, try to tune in to what your body is telling you in terms of your hunger levels and how certain foods leave you feeling.
Take away the label of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ around foods, and instead focus on how food makes you feel and try to be more in tune with your bodies hunger and fullness signals. Food should not have any moral value! Restricting yourself of ‘bad’ labelled foods can only make you want them more, and eventually, you may just overindulge and obsess over it. Instead, know there are some foods to try to include more regularly in your diet compared to others, but remember that you can enjoy all foods in moderation as part of an overall balanced and varied diet!
Being realistic with yourself
Remind yourself that there might be a lot going on at Christmas, and that is okay! Think about adjusting your goals at this time of the year so that they are more realistic and flexible for this festive period.
For example, if you are working towards weight loss, how about focusing on maintaining your weight around Christmas and enjoying with the celebrations mindfully rather than overly restricting yourself and missing out on the fun? Managing your expectations will allow you to enjoy this time more, especially with being kinder to yourself and not feeling like you have ‘failed’ or broken ‘rules’.
This practice is useful for any time of the year but can be particularly helpful at Christmas when we are surrounded by more treats than usual. Mindful eating allows you to focus on what you are eating, why you are eating and how much. You want to fully enjoy whatever you choose to eat, and not feel guilty. This will help manage portion sizes and eat to the hunger levels of your body.
Focus on taking a small portion of what you fancy (maybe that’s a mince pie, your favourite piece of chocolate or some festive flavoured crisps) and enjoy it very slowly without any distractions (no tv watching or scrolling on the phone!).
What does the food look and smell like? What are the textures in your mouth? Do you like it, and how do you feel whilst eating it? Taking your time to eat can allow you to enjoy the overall sensations more and you are left feeling satisfied with a smaller amount overall!
Check in with your hunger cues
If you have a party or meal out planned, doing a little bit of planning ahead can pay off. Try not to arrive overly hungry, because then everything will seem extra tempting and it is harder to control portions and be mindful this way. Sometimes having a small snack before going out can help prevent the overly hungry feeling, so you are more aware of your choices once you arrive.
Try not to stand too close to the buffet table or where the food is being served, as the visual hunger can often tempt you, even if you are not physically hungry. If there is a sit-down meal, try to take your time and eat slowly, chewing each mouthful properly and putting cutlery down often. This will help you register when you feel comfortably full and are happy to finish – even if this means that you end up leaving some on the plate. If there is a dessert and/or cheese course, check in with yourself to see how much you would like to have, but still leave feeling comfortable and not overly full.
And if you are drinking, try to alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water, to help you pace yourself and keep hydrated. Being intoxicated can have an influence on our food choices!
Even if you do end up indulging more in a few more mince pies or glasses of prosecco than you planned, remember – that is okay! There is no need to write off the rest of the week or have the “I’ll start again on Monday” attitude. What can you do tomorrow to help you get back into things? Strive for progress, not perfection.
And most of all, enjoy yourself and don’t forget to look back and reflect on all the happy memories you would have made!
By Reema Patel, Registered Dietitian