Whilst filled with lots of joy, Christmas time also tends to be a stressful period for many. Booked out calendars, event preparations, shopping for presents.. not to mention that, for many, there’s the worry that our diets or healthy habits will go out the window with all of the foods we often enjoy around this time of year.
Food temptations are everywhere- spread across tables at parties, gifted to us from friends and in our homes for Christmas day.
Often, the story goes something like this: as Christmas approaches, we start to worry about all of the 'bad' foods we'll be tempted by... we wish we could limit ourselves and eat sensibly... then when we're faced with the foods we're so fearful of, willpower collapses and we end up indulging because it tastes so good... now we're stuffed silly and feeling overfull... not to mention terribly guilty and ashamed at our lack of restraint... we promise ourselves to learn from our mistakes, but it just happens all over again at the next opportunity.
Want to avoid falling into this temptation trap?
It's time to change our mindsets surrounding food. Here are 8 strategies to do that...
1. Stop vilifying foods: whenever we label foods as ‘bad’, we put a judgement on them. When we eat ‘bad’ foods, we become ‘bad’ people. This is a major cause of guilt related to eating.
2. Embrace all foods: every food has its place. Some foods are best to have in abundance, everyday (think grains, vegetables, fruit…). Some foods are best enjoyed on a less frequent basis or reserved for special occasions (think cake, fried foods, processed meat). Acknowledging that Christmas is an occasion involving lots of festive foods can help us to remove the shame we feel around eating food at this time. This step is important in helping us to get back to normal eating post-Christmas
3. Remove the restriction: If you were told that you must stay away from (insert food you really enjoy) for the whole day, what do you think your chances are of achieving that? When we focus on avoiding a food, we tend to want it even more. This is why restrictive diets don’t work (or don’t work for long) most of the time.
4. Eat when you’re hungry: allow yourself to develop a comfortable level of hunger before eating. Notice your brain’s desire for food, feel your empty stomach and perhaps some soft gurgling. This is your body telling you it’s time to eat.
5. ...But don’t wait until you’re starved: starvation causes your body to go into panic mode. Getting uncomfortably hungry means we are more likely to eat excessively. When we finally start to eat in a ravenous state, our desperate attempt to re-fuel the body means that we tend to overeat to the point of discomfort.
6. Stop when you’re satisfied: As you’re eating, really listen to what your body is saying. How is your appetite? What hunger or fullness cues do you notice? Many of us eat until the point of fullness, then once we’re finished eating we continue to grow more full (particularly on Christmas day!). Most people find that there is a sweet spot where they feel satisfied during a meal, and if they eat more, they risk feeling uncomfortably full later on. Practice listening out for that sweet spot.
7. Eat mindfully: mindfulness is a very trendy topic these days, and for good reason. Applying it to eating has so many benefits. It’s very difficult to overindulge in food when you’re eating it mindfully- that is, giving all of your attention to the food and how it looks, tastes, smells, sounds and feels. Invest in a few extra mealtime minutes to really savour your food.
8. Eat slowly: if you can eat mindfully, this part comes easily. Mealtimes aren’t a race, but we tend to act like they are. Eating quickly means we’re more likely to overfill our stomachs, because it takes time for the stretch receptors in our stomach to fire to the brain and trigger appetite reduction once they have detected that we’re at capacity.
Want to dive deeper into these concepts with someone who’s trained in this area? Consider booking in to see me so that I can teach you the skills needed to really improve your relationship with food and escape the detrimental dieting mindset!