Home » What You Need to Know to Tackle This Holiday Season
Christmas is often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year” but it can also be the most stressful time of the year if you’re struggling with your relationship with food and your body. At Embody Health London, we know how overwhelming the festive season can be for our clients, so here is a handy list of DOs and DON’Ts to help you navigate your way through it!
It can be tempting to try “save space” for that all-important Christmas dinner by restricting your intake earlier in the day to minimise the number of calories you’re consuming. Unfortunately, the opposite effect usually occurs, as restriction often precedes a binge eating episode, which can leave you feeling over-full, guilty and anxious. To circumvent this, we suggest eating a meal or snack every three to four hours and avoid waiting until you’re feeling ravenous to eat.
The holidays can be almost synonymous with over-indulgence, due in part to the pressures of well-meaning (but unhelpful) family members encouraging second and third servings at mealtimes. If this is in line with your hunger levels, go for it! But you’re also allowed to be firm in declining more food when you’re full and satisfied.
It can be helpful to develop a game plan in advance if you pre-empt some sticky situations developing at Christmas lunch this year. This is something you can discuss with your dietitian, therapist or a trusted friend or family member if you feel like you need some extra support.
As part of this, you might like to rehearse a generic response to comments on your food choices or body. You can keep it super simple with something along the lines of:
If you need to excuse yourself from a conversation that feels triggering, that’s okay! Take a trip to the bathroom or to refill your drink, and take a few deep and cleansing breaths.
Set some time aside to decompress in any way that feels good to you. Self-care might take the form of distraction (such as watching your favourite show, reading a book or phoning a friend) or restoration (such as meditation, journaling or a bubble bath). This can help you to feel rested and ready to tackle anything that comes your way!
This time of year is meant to be one of joy – let that apply to food as well! By barring yourself from foods you enjoy because you’re worried they’re “unhealthy”, your body is going to feel restricted – even if you’re eating enough calories. Eat for pleasure this Christmas and consider mealtimes as an opportunity to connect with family and friends.
You know that voice telling you that some foods are “good” and some are “bad”? And that eating too much of these “bad” foods is a cardinal sin that should be avoided at all costs?
That’s the food police rearing its ugly head.
Sometimes the food police is a whisper in the back of your mind, and sometimes it takes the physical form of a family member asking you if you really need that second serving of pie.
Regardless of where it’s coming from – shut. it. down.
Guilt has absolutely no place at the dinner table and there are no morals attached to food – meaning there is no “good” and “bad”, and no need for shame or compensatory behaviours.
We mentioned earlier some ways to deflect unsolicited opinions about your plate or weight. This is your reminder that you don’t need to enter into emotionally exhausting conversations about diet culture if you don’t have the capacity (or desire) to do so. It is not your job to educate others about why their comments are uninformed or hurtful. Let your own mental wellbeing be your priority and feel free to simply ignore or change the topic.
If things start to feel like all too much, avoid shutting out the people who care about you indefinitely. Instead, take some time for yourself and then reach out to someone you can trust to support you.
You might also consider researching in advance which eating disorder or mental health helplines in your area are open to calls over Christmas. It can be comforting to know that there’s somewhere you can turn to for support as an alternative to family and friends!
To learn more about how to heal your relationship with food for the holidays and beyond, reach out to us at [email protected] to speak to one of our expert dietitians. We would love to support you!
Karli Battaglia MDiet, APD
EHL Team x
Embody Health London champions food freedom, positive body image, mental health and emotional wellbeing through a uniquely blended scientific and holistic approach. The EHL team specialises in treating chronic dieting and eating disorders by coaching clients to build confidence and reduce anxiety around their eating habits and food choices.
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