Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner! While this certainly calls for joy and celebration, it may also make those who watch their food intake a little anxious.
Sure enough, these holidays almost always rhyme with gargantuan meals, endless buffets, and mountains of desserts and sweets. You’re bound to feel overwhelmed if you’re generally one to count calories or to practice mindful eating.
In fact, you’re probably already thinking of ways to limit the impact of those holiday-marathon-meals on your waist-line.
Should you eat very little food leading up to the big events so you can eat without feeling guilty then?
So should you fast during the whole month of January to make up for all the extra calories consumed instead?
The actual solution is much healthier and only requires a little bit of work— it’s called intuitive eating.
This means adopting an eating style with a healthy approach to food and eating behavior. It requires listening to your body’s hunger and satiety cues and being in tune with your emotions around food.
Here are 5 keys for successful intuitive eating during the holidays.
1. Do not restrict yourself beforehand.
It can be tempting to eat only light meals a few days prior to the holiday feast in order to feel less guilty for the excess calories. Don’t do that.
If you restrict your calorie intake for a few days, it will inevitably lead to binging. This action sends the signal that you are allowed to binge and that it’s even expected of you, because you’ve been purposely restricting for it. Add that to your food-deprived body, desperate for nutrients, and boom.
A recipe for disaster.
You’ll eat way past fullness, feel sick and ashamed, and this will start another unhealthy cycle of restricting and binging. Just eat regular, healthy meals as always and your hunger cues will be a lot more tuned in.
2. Listen to those hunger cues.
Mindful eating, meaning being fully aware of your eating experience and your hunger/fullness cues, can be more difficult during the holiday period. People are talking, music is blasting, wine is flowing, and an array of different foods are put in front of your nose every five seconds.
Tuning out of the chaos and into your hunger needs is quite the challenge.
Don’t force yourself to eat anything just because it’s in front of you. And no, you do not have to try absolutely everything on the table. Before you eat something, ask yourself if it’s something you really enjoy, or if you’re just popping it into your mouth for the sake of it.
Don’t help yourself to more if you’re full. Similarly, if you’re having a series of holiday meals, you don’t have to eat like an ogre for each one. It’s okay to turn down some of the courses or to substitute the chocolate cake for some fruit.
Conversely, if you aren’t full yet, it’s completely okay to indulge in these foods until you reach satiety. Put your needs first, and trust your body.
You can find some more in-depth information about mindful eating here.
3. Don’t mind those around you.
While you should be listening to your body, one thing that shouldn’t be preoccupying you is what others have to say. Some family members may be quick to judge you when you grab an extra portion of dessert. Just smile and say that you’re still hungry and that the cake is delicious. Don’t play along, just move on and eat whatever feels right for your body without guilt.
The opposite reaction may also happen. People may pressure you for another glass of wine “it’s the holidays, enjoy yourself!”, a second serving of mashed potatoes “no’s not an answer, you’ve barely eaten a thing!”, and the last slice of pie “come on, you have to finish it, we’re not throwing it out!”.
Stay calm, smile, and politely repeat your answer. If they don’t drop it and hand you the food anyway, don’t eat it. You can have a conversation later on about how it’s important that they respect your food choices.
Keep in mind that a lot of people are struggling with their own eating habits, and their remarks might only be an indication of their own issues. It most likely has nothing to do with you.
4. Pay attention to your food.
During the holidays, chances are you’re going to be around a lot of delicious foods. Make sure to fully enjoy them! Don’t absent-mindedly reach for the cookies while opening up a present, or gulp down the main dish while your cousin asks you for advice.
Enjoy the way your food looks, smells, and finally, tastes. Try to chew slowly, and appreciate the flavors. Pause to drink water and chat with your family. Mentally rate your fullness throughout your meal, 0 meaning you’re starving and 10 meaning you’re full to the point of sickness.
Try to stop when you are around a 7, meaning comfortably full. If you go over that, don’t stress, it isn’t a big deal. You can regulate it during the next meal or the next day.
5. Find pleasure in other things than food.
The holiday season isn’t only about good food. There are so many other meaningful and memorable experiences to have.
Spending time with loved ones, cozying up next to the fireplace with a good book, watching Christmas movies, making some holiday crafts, giving and receiving presents, reflecting on things to be thankful for, partaking in winter activities, relaxing and taking care of yourself…
Indulge in these pleasures without moderation, and food will only be one among many!
Holiday intuitive eating in conclusion
The holidays are a wonderful, magical time of the year and shouldn’t be spoiled by obsessing over food. Don’t restrict yourself, but listen to your hunger cues, and acknowledge the food you are eating, all while tuning out to what others have to say. This will help your intuitive eating without wasting time on macro tracking or calorie counting.
Use the extra time to enjoy other holiday-related activities and stock up on precious moments with your loved ones.
Originally published on Edukale