RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

How to be Healthy Without Obsessing this Christmas

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

12th December 2018

It’s been a busy year. You’re exhausted and you’re ready to take a well-deserved break.

But you’re also feeling slightly anxious about the upcoming festivities – mainly because being merry often involves eating and drinking. Perhaps you are worried this could “undo” the progress you’ve made this year in your nutrition journey.  

But fear not. I’ve compiled my favourite tips and strategies to help you enjoy the holiday period (and all other times of the year!) without being concerned with weight or “out of control” eating behaviours.  

Tip #1 – Make the buffet your friend 

Buffets can be extremely overwhelming and cause much anxiety when it comes time to filling up a plate. With so much choice and food available it’s hard to know where to begin. What should I have? Should I have sweet or savoury? How much of each thing should I have? Can I go back for seconds?  

What can you do if you find yourself feeling anxious?  

Give yourself permission to eat all foods. All of the dishes that are presented on the buffet tables are there for you to enjoy – in as much or as little quantities as you desire. The food does not control you, but rather, trust yourself that you can figure out exactly what food you need that will truly satisfy you. 

But how? 

  • First, pick up a plate and wander around the buffet.  
  • Ask yourself “what looks good and what do I really feel like now?”  
  • Prioritise what you would like to REALLY eat now.  

Go for fewer options to have quality, rather than a little bit of everything. This can lead to a very full plate filled with foods that you may not really feel like eating. Being mindful in this way will help you to choose something that will truly satisfy you. This will help avoid any deprivation, which we know can lead to binge eating and guilt later on.  

A few things to remember when you’re doing this exercise: 

  • The food that you see will be there tomorrow. 
  • The food that you think you might crave later can be bought later. 
  • If you’re still hungry after your first plate, you can go get more food!  

“Choose something that will truly satisfy you and avoid any deprivation, which we know can lead to binge eating and guilt later on.

Tip #2  You can have great time with or without tipples 

There can be a lot of pressure at holiday events to always have a drink in your hand. You are your own person and you can make your own decision about what and when you would like to drink. If you are feeling overwhelmed, perhaps make a plan about which events you’d like to have alcohol at and which ones you don’t. Having a strategy over the festive period could mean fewer sore heads in the morning and happier holidays!  

What can you do at the events to manage how much alcohol you drink?  

Alcohol can be a tricky one, and when you’ve had a few drinks, listening to your intuition and tuning into your hunger tends to be a little more difficult. This is something to be mindful of. 

If you would like to drink more consciously, here are some things to consider. Before you head out, perhaps have something to drink before you leave the house to quench your thirst. This may prevent you turning up to an event thirsty and dehydrated which could lead to less conscious drink choices.  

Once you’re there, try to tap into your body signals to figure out what it is that you’d really like to drink. Similar to when we eat mindfully, ask yourself what is it that will truly satisfy you right then and there. If it’s a non-alcoholic drink, then choose that!  

If you’re not sure about what to have, have a glass of water while you decide. If you enjoy a cheeky cocktail, then go get it! But then don’t feel pressured to have multiple cocktails one after the other. Feel free to have a soft drink in between. 

Tip #3 – Don’t let people drag you into negative diet talk  

We know we live in a world that is obsessed with weight and the latest fad diet that promises to “improve health”. Well I’m here to tell you that diets do not work for the majority – whether it’s in the form of a fast, a cleanse, a wrap or a clean eating lifestyle change.  

All of these diets need to be given the flick because robust evidence shows that at least 80% of the population who diet cannot sustain long term weight loss (1,2).

Why? Because our bodies are biologically driven to hold onto fat stores and slow down metabolism any time we deprive ourselves or restrict food. No wonder we have such intense cravings and end up binge eating when we diet! And not only that, dieting leads to poor selfesteem, disordered eating, loss of hunger/fullness cues, rebound weight gain, slowed metabolism, preoccupation with food … need I go on? Dieting needs to be voted off the island. Pronto. 

So what can you do if you find yourself in a circle where negative diet culture or body shape/size is the topic of conversation?  

You can either remove yourself entirely from the conversation or if you’re feeling bold you could suggest “I am sure we have more interesting things to talk about other than weight loss… Carole, how’s [insert interesting topic here].” And if that doesn’t stop the diet talk, remove yourself from the conversation. You do not have to engage in diet or negative body image talk!  

Hopefully these tips help you stay on track with your body positive and intuitive eating journeys through the festive season. (For more in depth information about intuitive eating, feel free to have a read of this article which goes through fundamentals of this mindful practice). Just remember, there is no such thing as eating or drinking perfectly and it’s normal to feel as though you’re going “off track”.  

Use this time to reflect on how far you’ve come and celebrate your wins. Trust in yourself that you have the control and wisdom to know exactly what your body needs at this time of year. Honour your internal cues. You hold the key to knowing what your body truly needs to be nourished and satisfied.  

I hope you have a wonderful festive season and spend this time doing the things that make you happy with the people you love most. 

If you need a little something to help you through this Christmas period without getting sucked into diets, diet talk and obsessing with food and your weight, check out my FREE download. This will guide you through how to start intuitive eating to help resolve your food problems.

References: 

  1. Ikeda J, Amy NK, Ernsberger P, et al. The National Weight Loss Control Registry: a critique. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour. 2005;37(4):203-205.
  2. Anderson, James W., et al. “Long-term weight-loss maintenance: a meta-analysis of US studies–.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 74.5 (2001): 579-584.