How Can I Maintain A Good Relationship With Food Over The Christmas Period?
It's that time of year again. You may already be feeling overwhelmed by the thought of all of the drinking, eating and "doing stuff" that the next few weeks is going to involve. Or you may just be looking forward to it all and already have given yourself permission to "start the healthy eating/ diet from January".
If you have been working at rebuilding your relationship with food, this period of the year can be complicated to navigate. You may be debating between, just allowing yourself to go for it over the next few weeks and trying to maintain some routine/ discipline. Or you may be someone that is already turning down invites and cancelling plans because you are so worried about not being able to control the food that will be on offer. In whatever way you may be battling thoughts around food at this time of the year, here are some gentle tips to help you to maintain a good relationship with food over this Christmas period:
STAY AWAY FROM STRICT RULES AND ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING
What can often drive an unhealthy relationship with food over the festive period is very strict rules around food and/or all-or-nothing thinking. If you set very strict rules around food such as "I wont' eat any sugar or drink any more than one glass of wine" but you then decide to have a mince pie and that second glass of wine that someone offers you, you may end up thinking "well I have ruined it now, so there is no point in trying". This in turn can lead to binge-eating or over-eating, whereas just giving yourself the flexibility to have that one mince pie and second glass of wine may instead allow you achieve that place of balance and moderation. Worse still, having very strict rules around food may even mean that you don't go to that work Christmas party or family dinner and end up isolating yourself, which of course can be very unhelpful for your mental and emotional health. Of course, you can certainly set intentions around your food and drink choices and aim to stick to these where you can but ensure that these intentions aren't too rigid, fixed or restrictive and give yourself some flexibility to not adhere to them completely all of the time.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO SET BOUNDARIES
Whilst it is unhelpful to turn down invites and sacrifice things that could be good for your mental and emotional health just because of food worries, it is also unhelpful to feel the pressure to just say "yes" to every thing that comes along. At this time of year, it is especially important that you set those strong boundaries and feel comfortable saying "no" sometimes so that you can still prioritise self-care and your needs/wellbeing.
REMEMBER THAT WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT
The Christmas period can be a time where we fall into the comparison trap. We are surrounded by so many people that we may end up comparing our food choices to those of other people around us. If we find ourselves around people who have an unhealthy relationship with food, this can also be very triggering. It can be helpful during this time to keep reminding ourselves that everyone is different and that different things work for different bodies. Just because a way of eating works for your colleague/sister/friend, it doesn't mean that this has to work for you too. Keep trusting and tuning into your own unique needs when it comes to nourishing your mind and body and nurturing your mental and physical health.
DON'T TRY AND SKIP MEALS/ STARVE YOURSELF JUST TO COMPENSATE
Many people will often anticipate that big meal out or celebration by just starving themselves all day long. Whilst fasting in this way may seem like a helpful strategy to maintain a place of balance, for some people, it can mean that they allow themselves to get very hungry and then end up binge-eating or over-eating later in the day. Know what food routine works for you and prioritise eating regularly enough for your body so that you aren't then at risk of hugely over-eating or bingeing because you've allowed yourself to get too hungry.
GET THE BALANCE BETWEEN THE FUTURE AND THE PRESENT
Some people decide to get through this period with the "you only live once" approach and allowing themselves to "just go for it and enjoy themselves". Others on the other hand are very restrictive with their food intake and turn down invites because they want to maintain a sense of control over their food choices. Of course, it is most helpful to find an approach somewhere between these two, where you are allowing yourself to enjoy yourself but not going completely crazy with the intention of starting the diet "in January". A good way to achieve this place of balance would be to ask yourself, if you were responsible for taking care of your 16 year old niece or nephew over the next few weeks, what food choices would you make for them? You most probably would allow them to enjoy some indulgences here and there but also encourage them to maintain some structure and routine around their meals. Guiding yourself through these weeks as you would a niece or nephew can really help you to find that place of balance.
REMEMBER THAT YOUR EMOTIONAL, MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH IS IMPORTANT
Through the next few weeks it is essential to make choices to optimise not just your physical health but also your mental and emotional health too. Being too restrictive around food can affect your mental and emotional health very negatively. At the same time, neglecting nourishing your body completely could mean that you feel more fatigued and drained. How can you find that balance between your mental, emotional and physical health that feels right for you?
We offer an 8 week online treatment programme for over eating and binge eating which can help you to maintain a good relationship with food over the Christmas period and beyond. Most people believe that in order to lose weight and get healthy, they just need to eat less and exercise more... however this often just gets them trapped in a vicious cycle of dieting and then over-eating/ binge-eating/ comfort-eating. In this programme you will learn how you can set yourself free from this cycle - without counting calories, having to follow meal-plans, giving up food groups or obsessing over food and your weight all day long.
You can find out more about the programme here: https://www.thefoodtherapyclinic.com/online-binge-eating-treatment
"Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat." — Guy Fieri