I have put the outside Christmas lights up (fighting off hyperthermia in the process!), our tree and decorations are up, the advent calendars are being worked through and Christmas parties loom large. Yes indeed, it’s now that time of the year! With the festive season also brings with it the diverse variety of festive foods. In the town centre here we have Christmas market stalls selling every kind of festive food and drinks. There is so much on offer throughout!
Let’s face it, this can lead to some worry and concern too. With all the merry and the wonderful food the season brings, it can be accompanied by a constant worry that one naughty day may lead to another and so on. One mince pie might lead to another, one mulled wine after another, and before you even know it, your eating record (which may have been amazing for the rest of the year) has gone off the track.
As Edith Sitwell once stated, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth.”
It is true that overindulging during the festive winter season can really cause you to gain weight, and therefore it is safe to assume that that the worries constantly nagging you at the back of your mind is not completely unrealistic.
Tips For A Guilt-Free Festive Season
However, you need not worry too much! Here are a number of tips that can really help you enjoy your holiday and festive season without too much constraint – tips that can really help you focus on what actually matters during this time of the year: your family, your friends, your peace and who knows maybe those moments where you have a cup of hot chocolate and you are immersed in your favourite Netflix show!
Here are a few tips that might prove useful:
1. Food Is Neither Good nor Bad
Most of us have at one point in our lives said, “I had the worst food today?” or “I ate so good today.” I know I have said such things a number of times.
Our perception of food is a little different in the sense that we have often been trained to think of food as either “Good” or “Bad”. But we must realise that this isn’t necessarily true: Food is food – it is just that. It is neither good nor bad. When we think of food in binary terms, we tend to associate our morality and suitability with it. The more we tend to neutralise and centralise our perception of food and about what we eat, the easier and better it tends to be. The guilt you experience when having too much is related to doing something bad, and that is when you associate the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ with food. Being neutral helps you dissociate with these ideas and feelings, and who knows, you may be able to enjoy your meal without having to constantly worry about gaining weight or having to bear the guilt or cost of it in the future.
2. Eat What Your Heart Desires
Given the first point, this festive season you might as well want to change something else about your perception of food; This festive season, try to approach food with the idea that you can eat anything you want and that you don’t necessarily have to restrain your choice of food. For example, we have so often been introduced to the idea of good and bad food that we tend to restrict ourselves to what we perceive as good food to eat better and healthier to try to rid ourselves of any guilty feelings later on. And while we may assume that this actually works, it may be surprising to realise that it, in many cases, does not.
Such an approach of accessing “Good” food and restricting “Bad” food upon us can lead to just two consequences. The first consequence may be that you stick to this plan but continue thinking about the food you declare “off-limit” for yourself. Therefore, you may find yourself in a miserable situation where we see others enjoying what we so desperately want for ourselves. And the second consequence may be that we simply cave in to the pressure of it and simply give up; In this case, we may end up not only eating what we might have restricted for ourselves but instead end up eating more than we normally would have, i.e. in an amount that actually can be harmful to your physical health, making you gain unnecessary weight.
Chrissy King, a strength and fitness coach, encourages clients to approach meals, not with the idea of what they can eat and what they can’t eat. Rather with the idea of how they might feel after the meal. For example, simply carrying the idea that you want to feel satisfied and vitalised rather than stuffed or overly full can help you really channel the path.
3. Try Not To Skip Meals Before or After The Festive Season Has Ended
Perhaps one of the best tips is to not change your eating practices before and after the festive season has ended. This is a simple tip to practice: You just need to keep treating this time of the year like other food experiences. This will help you normalise the period and your associated eating habits over time. It releases the pressure you may feel about gaining weight or overindulging in food than you previously planned.
In theory, it may sound better to starve yourself or eat less for one or a few numbers of days either prior to or after a calorie intensive meal. In practice, however, things differ. This constant disruption in eating patterns combined with starvation after or prior to eating intensively some days can lead to problems.
You don’t need to punish yourself for eating out of bounds by starving yourself. The main thing of importance is to be kind and gentle to the body you have.
According to research, food insecurity that leads to hunger and starvation can result in reduced learning and productivity among children, poor mental health and even chronic diseases alongside an ‘over weight status’.
4. Take On Less of What Other People Think or Say
Other people may attempt to shame others or comment upon your food choices, your weight fluctuations, e.g., weight gain and your body shape. Increased awareness has brought about an effort to overcome these harmful narratives; however, at the same time, there are many people who still have a long journey to travel here. Many people may not even be aware of the ways they may be participating and thereby shaping the diet culture, though they may not even be aware of what diet culture actually is. It is often easier said than done, but it is useful to know that you often learn to internalise the commentary that people around you have to offer. In most cases, their opinions and comments have nothing to do with you, and rather it is their indirect way of projecting their own insecurities.
Unfortunately for you, you may be on the receiving end of these unrequested insights that people might want to share with you. One thing that might help you through with this is setting firm boundaries for yourself. When someone you know around you tries to engage in such a conversation about your food choices, body shape and size, for example, let them politely know that you are not interested in holding this conversation and may even deviate from the topic a little. Such conversations and situations can be awkward, but they are very important for your mental peace and well-being.
5. Losing Weight Should Not Be Your Main Aim
Your body size, shape and weight, the way you look and appear to others does not need to be the most important thing about you.
You are very much allowed to eat whatever you want, and any time of the day and year you like and even in whatever quantity you want. You are allowed to do all this without making yourself feel worthless or like crap or by constantly trying to overcome the guilt that you ate something ‘off-limits. Opposite to popular belief, constant stress about food and how you spend your holiday season planning your meal schedules and trying to abide by your restrictions prevents you from only enjoying your peace and calm. It never really has prevented anyone from gaining weight or from being subject to guilt and shame.
6. Eat Your Meal Without A Rush
Eating your meal slowly and taking time to chew it can actually be more helpful and useful than you might have imagined. Chewing your food properly can help your food get digested better and help your body extract the proper and necessary nutrients from the food you consume. Remember the idea that if you do not indulge in mindful eating, you do tend to over eat and, in this process, can really gain weight. Chewing your food properly can also help you experience its taste better and experience its colour and texture for longer, making you more satisfied with what you are taking in.
In fact, according to research published by Healthline, it has been found that people who are more likely to experience weight problems are those who tend to chew their food less than normal people do, thereby highlighting the importance of indulging in mindful eating.
Festive food can come in all forms and tastes, and no one wants to miss out on the mouth-watering dishes that are displayed before you during this festive season. And honestly speaking, there really is no joy in keeping yourself from enjoying all the delicious food. Overindulgence can lead to unintentional consequences, for example, unnecessary weight gain. It is better to indulge in smart eating rather than completely restraining yourself. The key is to eat freely and be physically active. Try out the tips mentioned above, and enjoy yourself!
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