It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Pretty fairy lights, a tree in your living room, the chance to catch up with your nearest and dearest, and of course, food.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably struggling with something. How can you eat all the foods you want, guilt-free, without putting on a stone? You’re not alone. Holiday weight gain is a worldwide phenomenon, with the average person gaining at least 1lb. While that doesn’t sound like much, we also struggle to lose that extra pound, and year after year, it adds up.
Enough of the fear-mongering.
Yes, we gave you some facts and used the word phenomenon, but do you need to worry that much? Not if you shift your mindset and use the tips in this article to navigate the holiday period and beyond. Because you see, our tips are skills for life-long eating, not just for Christmas.
Guilt-Free Eating: Our Top 5 Tips
This is the blog you’re not expecting because we’re not going to help you survive the holidays. We’re also not going to tell you just to enjoy it or eat what you want, and then jump back on the horse after New Year. We don’t deal in extremes.
We’re the middle ground. And the middle ground is where the real shit happens.
Food rules are restrictive, but eating skills are liberating. The following strategies for guilt-free eating will help you enjoy Christmas and the rest of the year.
#1: Stop Starting Again
“New year, new me!”
While we don’t discourage starting the year with positivity, you’re not broken. You don’t need a new you; you need to be kinder to who you are now. Don’t fall into the trap of starting again after the holidays.
Using language like “new year, new me” indicates you’re not happy with who you are as a person. That you’re not good enough. The other side of that coin is compassion. Self-compassion involves being honest with yourself but also approaching that honesty with kindness.
How would you talk to a friend who’s struggling with their weight? Would you bully them? Or would you want them to start looking after themselves and set the intention to feed their body with nutritious foods?
Start now. You don’t need to wait until after Christmas. We teach our clients to eat mostly healthy foods and make room for fun foods. Treat Christmas the same. A couple of days of indulging in more fun foods isn’t going to derail your healthy lifestyle.
Restricting certain foods and then binge eating them over Christmas is the same as a restrictive diet all year round that leads to overeating episodes and guilt. It’s not necessary.
#2: Permit Yourself to eat Whatever You Want
Huh? I can hear your confusion through my keyboard.
Surely eating what you want is a sure-fire way to put on weight and overeat? You’d think so, wouldn’t you?
What it does, is eliminate the rules you place on food and eating. For 90% of our clients, their main meals are nutritious and healthy. But outside of those meals, they restrict what they deem ‘bad’ foods and end up craving them, eventually overeating and feeling guilty until they punish themselves.
Here are some other popular food rules we’d love to dispose of:
- I can’t have that; it’s got sugar in it.
- I’m on a diet, no bread, rice, or pasta for me!
- I’ve had a biscuit; I might as well finish the whole pack now and start again on Monday.
Ugh. Rules and restrictions.
Instead of rules and restrictions, permit yourself to eat whatever you want. It might take some practice, but what you’ll realise is that if you want a biscuit, you can have one without toxic guilt and without needing to finish the whole packet.
The same applies to Christmas food. Instead of feeling anxious around Christmas indulgence, permit yourself to indulge a little. You might be surprised to learn that you don’t need to overeat; you can have a little bit of what you want and then go back to eating normally.
#3: See the Bigger Picture
For argument’s sake, you eat three meals a day. That’s twenty-one meals over the week. I know, quick math. If 17 of those meals are healthy, balanced, and nutritious, do you think four slightly over-indulgent meals are going to sabotage your weight? TDLR: They won’t.
Eating a heavier meal on Christmas Day isn’t the issue. The guilt and eventual sabotage lead to weight gain, and the inevitable January juice cleanse.
Positive nutrition isn’t one meal. It’s small, healthy habits and skills practiced daily that add up to help you feel your best. Just because your diet isn’t ‘perfect’ over the Christmas period, it doesn’t mean your other habits need to go to shit.
Keep moving, exercise where you can (if you want to), prioritise sleep, and stay hydrated.
#4: Be Active Together
Many holiday traditions include sitting on the sofa watching repeats of old Christmas films. And that’s fine. But inactivity coupled with overeating is a recipe for feeling sluggish and tired and might lead to weight gain.
An easy way to combat the food coma is by getting outside for a walk. The whole family can enjoy the exercise, and if it’s snowing, you can have a snowball fight! Family-friendly fun.
If you don’t want to exercise, that’s fine, too. And if you’re only exercising to earn your food, definitely put that rule in the bin. Exercise is a healthy habit that promotes good physical and mental health; it’s not a punishment for over-indulgence.
#5: Mindful Eating for the Win!
Our philosophy at Next Step Nutrition is built on mindful eating skills.
We believe food is to be enjoyed, and Christmas is an opportunity to enjoy eating with family and friends and celebrating together. Is it still possible to eat mindfully?
Mindful eating is the coming together of all the tips above.
Exercise keeps you active and carries on the good habits you’ve built. Seeing the bigger picture allows you to indulge a little but still look out for hunger and fullness cues. Permitting yourself to eat whatever you want leads to a better relationship with food, and self-compassion leads to a better relationship with yourself.
To practice eating mindfully this Christmas, try any of the following:
- Eat slowly: Enjoy your Christmas dinner and notice all the flavours and textures.
- Use smaller plates: Have smaller portions and stop when you’re full. You can always go back for seconds if you’re still hungry.
- Put your fork down between bites: This helps with eating slowly.
- Check-in with yourself: Are you full? Are you satisfied?
- Eat without distractions: No TV! Enjoy the company.
If you practice any of the above, you’ll feel in control of your diet in the Christmas period.
Moving Forward With Guilt-Free Eating This Christmas
As you can probably tell, the tips we highlight above can be used all year round, not just at Christmas (or Thanksgiving, or Easter, etc.).
You should never feel guilty for eating, and learning to feel your feelings instead of eating them is the next step in creating positive changes and a better relationship with food. It’s a big undertaking, and Next Step Nutrition is here to help you navigate the muddy waters of healthy eating.