As the holiday season begins (it already technically began in Canada weeks ago with Thanksgiving), I know how hard it can be to stay mindful. To stay present. To not want to eat everything in sight. To enjoy the holidays for what they are and just have fun. So I wanted to talk about and share my holidays eating tips with you. I think there are definite practices and strategies that can be put in place that will help us feel a little more relaxed. So that we don’t feel out of control around food and just the holidays in general. So keep reading if you want to find out my holiday eating tips to help you stay mindful.
Before I jump into the holiday eating tips, I wanted to make mention of the fact that this time of the year is one of the most difficult. I get that. I never used to understand how or why the holidays were difficult until my mom passed away and then it hit me. Not having someone that was so integral to my childhood memories of Christmas and thanksgiving is not easy. And then add on top of that family issues that stemmed from her passing. I felt alone, anxious, depressed and angry around the holidays (for the first few years). The holidays which were always a source of joy and family turned into something that I didn’t recognize anymore. Suddenly, I had to choose between family members on where to spend holidays and deal with all of the stress that came from it made me not want to be around much. So, I started traveling for the holidays to escape them altogether. And although it worked a little bit, the lingering feelings didn’t go away. Because you can’t suppress your emotions. You have to deal with them.
Regardless, I have worked through these issues, but not having my mom around for the holidays is still very hard. When you are constantly bombarded with images of happy families on TV, social media and anywhere else, it is still depressing. It brings up lots of emotions, feelings and doesn’t always make for an easy holiday season. I get that now. So I wanted to take a moment to say that and to acknowledge that I do understand first hand how tough the holidays can be for people.
Before we jump into my holiday eating tips and discuss emotional eating and our relationship to food, if you know that yours could use work, check out my free guide and workbook. You’ll find lots of helpful strategies that can help anytime of the year.
Holiday Eating Tips: My Top 7 Strategies
So with the holiday season being difficult for some people and then add on top of that a disordered relationship to food and your body, I knew it was important to share my top 7 holiday eating tips.
Don’t neglect self-care: Self-care can be difficult enough to manage during normal times, never mind during times of stress. But it is during the times of stress, anxiety and fear that we need self-care the most. Self-care is something that I truly believe in 100% and it is not something that makes you selfish. It is more than bubble baths, massages and face masks. You can read about self-care and what it means to me over here. The point here is to have in place some kind of self-care practice that allows you time for you. One of the most common feelings associated with a lack of self-care is anxiety and stress. When you feel stressed and anxious, a lot of the times, we turn to food as a way to cope. And while I don’t see anything wrong with emotional eating (in fact it can be a blessing), it does also represent that something in your life needs your attention. This is where self-care comes in. If you don’t have strategies in place to deal with your emotions other than food, that is a problem. So dig a little deeper here and find ways to make time for you, to connect with yourself and truly put yourself first. As the daughter of a people pleaser, nothing pains me more than to see a woman put herself last consistently and see their health suffer as a result. If only I knew what I do now years ago, I would have encouraged my mom to put her needs first.
Give yourself permission to eat the foods you enjoy, period: Do I need to elaborate on this? I will just in case you need a reminder. One of the best holiday eating tips I have is to just enjoy the food. If you’re anything like me (or a lot of other people) you probably have specific foods you eat during the holidays. And if you enjoy them and eat them once or twice a year, doesn’t that mean you should also enjoy them. No side of guilt. No feelings of shame or disgust. Just pure enjoyment. I will also add that while you are sitting down to eat and enjoying the food, focus on savouring every bite. This means being a little more mindful and present. Being thankful for what you have in front of you and showing gratitude to whoever put the effort into making it (especially if that is you). One of the principles of intuitive eating is to say bye to the food police. This means forgetting all the rules that are in your head from years of dieting and learning to trust your body and what it needs. This is of course much oversimplified, but I can’t go into too much detail in this post. I would encourage you to read this post all about how to go from guilt to mindful eating and have a look at the Intuitive Eating book of course.
Do you: Forget what ANYONE else says or thinks: Everyone has an opinion about diets, nutrition and food these days. As a holistic nutritionist, I hear about people’s opinions on various diets almost daily and as much as I love nutrition and food, it can be overwhelming if you’re not careful. One of my holiday eating tips is that before you head into a family meal, check in with yourself first. Be aware that diet culture is everywhere and people love to discuss what and how they eat these days. They will have an opinion. Focus on what foods feel good to you, what fuels your body and gives you energy and forget the rest. If someone starts talking about how they plan on jumping on a new diet in the new year, simply aim to change the subject and remember that everyone is on their own journey. There is no need to engage in diet talk and start to feel shitty about yourself (because thats what diet talk does). I am sure there are lots of other things to discuss rather than the latest keto craze, amirite?
Acknowledge that the holidays are hard AF sometimes: As I stated in the beginning of this blog post, the holidays aren’t easy for a lot of people. Remembering to acknowledge that and give yourself some slack and permission is important. Another one of my holiday eating tips is to be gentle with yourself and remember that you are doing the best you can. It really can be this simple sometimes, trust me.
Be OK with saying no: I always like to remind people that saying no (thank you) is a complete sentence. You don’t need to follow up with a reason or explain yourself. If you don’t want something, just say no. I think a lot of times, we feel guilty for saying no to food (and yes as well) because we feel like we are letting someone down. That someone is usually the person who made the food because they spent time and energy making it. But, truthfully, the food doesn’t need to go to waste, there is such a thing as leftovers. Listen to your body, when it is full and satisfied, put down the fork. If there is food left on your plate, thats ok, pack it up. Honouring your body and your fullness is a key component to intuitive eating and something that we often neglect.
But, it’s ok if you eat too much: Yeah, so what if you ate too much?! It is the holidays after all. I know this seems like it goes against what I just said above, but that is because intuitive eating is not another diet, there are no rules. Sometimes, we eat past fullness and that is ok too. Food is more than just macros and calories. We also eat as part of an experience and when we are with family and friends, we want to enjoy the food and the company. Worrying about eating too much will cause more anxiety in the long run.
Let go of the January diet mentality: When you learn to let go of the diet dream including the January diet nonsense, you can avoid overeating a lot of the times. There is no free for all, or last supper mentality that we need to eat all the foods because we are going to restrict later. If the food is always going to be available to us, we allow more food freedom in our choices. We don’t need to binge because we can have the food whenever we want. Once we place food restrictions on ourselves, we end up wanting to eat more of it. Let go of the restriction and guilt and watch what happens next.
I do hope you found these holiday eating tips helpful. It is so important to be aware of the pressure we place on ourselves around food and actively work to remove it.
Do you have any of your own holiday eating tips that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!
Don’t forget to check out my FREE beat the binge guide and workbook to start working on repairing your relationship to food and your body.