Christmas is a time of celebration, family, food and happiness. Everyone should be able to enjoy their favourite festive foods and make the most of the festive holiday. Sadly, Christmas can be a scary time for those who struggle with their relationship with food. If you think you may struggle with binging and feelings of guilt at Christmas, this article is for you.
I’ve been there myself actually, when I used to worry about falling off track, because I didn’t trust myself to just eat without an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. I would set myself unrealistic goals of not eating certain things, or not eating prior to Christmas, just so that I could enjoy the foods I was so scared of eating. Then, low and behold, I would eat such a huge amount that all I could think about afterwards is how ashamed I was of myself. And because I agreed with myself that I would ‘eat clean’ in January, Christmas became a sort of ‘last supper’, leading me to just stuff myself even more. The sad thing is, that because I was so annoyed at myself, I wasn’t able to enjoy the other parts of Christmas, like spending time with my family. If this sounds similar to how you feel before, during or after Christmas, then I may be able to help you with some small suggestions.
With the help of other nutritionists and psychologists, I have put together 8 ways to help you regain your healthy relationship with food this Christmas!
1. Appreciate what your body is capable of
If your anxieties around food are fuelled by dissatisfaction with the way you look, then it can be really helpful to think about what your body CAN do. Think about your arms and legs for example, what would you do without them? They help you achieve all that you want to. Even little things like walking, bending down or reaching for things. Don’t focus on what you don’t like, think about what you DO appreciate about them. With a more positive outlook on your body, you are less likely to damage your relationship with food, and eat everything in moderation. Drinking enough water and eating a variety of different foods (nutritious and less nutritious) will guarantee that you are feeding your body with everything that it needs.
2. Allow yourself to eat normally before
Many people think that making up for the damage to come is a way of softening the blow. The problem with skipping meals, is the intensity of hunger that you feel later on. If you get too hungry, you are more likely to binge and eat larger amounts than you normally would. It is also important to eat foods prior to your christmas meal that stabilise your blood sugar levels. Unstable blood sugar levels will likely cause you to be ‘hangry’ and eat more than usual. This means avoiding refined sugars and carbohydrates (E.g. Cakes, chocolate, sweets, white bread etc.).
3. Don’t eat to please!
Some of you may eat more than you want to, just to please others around you. ‘If everyone else is having more then so should I!’. If you are prone to feeling guilty after eating a large amount, it’s not worth making yourself feel bad later. Listen to your hunger cues, take in the taste, textures, aromas and colours of the food, then stop when you think you have had enough. You can always have more later on if you get hungry again.
4. Focus on your positive goals
Instead of setting yourself goals of what not to eat, set yourself goals of positive habits you will adopt. For example, ‘I will enjoy a cookie and I will master the art of listening to my hunger and fullness signals’. This way you aren’t depriving yourself, and you are setting positive goals.
5. Address your binging triggers
Try and identify your triggers of binging. Are you using food as a solution to an emotional issue? Perhaps you are avoiding a situation or conversation around the dinner table that you hate having. Instead of using food as the solution to make you feel better, how about finding an alternative solution that will diffuse that emotion? It could be that going for a walk, or having a bath could help you deal with that stress. It is completely personal, so have a go at different things that could alleviate your stress.
6. Look at the bigger picture
It is really important to put things into perspective. One or two days is such a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things. You should be able to enjoy christmas, whether it is with or without your close ones. Even if you eat more than normal, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. When you are older and look back on your time, it would be a shame not to have fully enjoyed these special times just because of the relationship you have with food.
7. Distract yourself from guilt
If you find that the guilt is taking over your thoughts, have a go at distracting your mind from those thoughts. Play a game, watch a movie, have a conversation with a friend or family member. Try and be present with what is happening in front of you, rather than worrying about something you have done or the consequences of it (which probably aren't real anyway!).
8. Avoid the January diets & deprivation
Planning to go on a diet can create a situation where you feel like you have one chance to eat all the foods you shouldn’t. This is what creates a cycle of binging, deprivation and then binging again. If you know you can eat all foods whenever you want, you are probably not going to sit and eat 5 chocolate bars in one go. The ‘forbidden fruit’ is always desired more by he who is prohibited from eating it. Tell yourself you are allowed to eat whatever you want, whenever you want and this ‘all or nothing’ mentality will start to fade.
I really hope these suggestions help! I would like to thank nutritionist, Lily Soutter and psychologist Rachel Evans for their inspirational conversation on this topic on Instagram, which helped me write this blog for you.
Let me know how you get on through a comment or private DM!
I am always happy to listen and offer some advice, especially having been there myself.