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“Surviving” the Holidays with Intuitive Eating

When I worked in the States I was asked by our hospital media team to come up with tips for “surviving the holidays”. While I initially enjoyed the publicity, after a few years I got frustrated. “My tips are the same!” I wanted to cry out. And how did a season that's meant to be merry and bright become something stressful to be survived?

The Christmas season can indeed be hard for many reasons, but for many food is part of that stress. While seeing a dietitian during the holidays might be the last thing on someone’s wish list, some of our clients are desperate for additional visits. “Help me, I have five parties this week!” or “I’m dreading Christmas lunch because…”.

Applying intuitive eating principles to holiday eating can bring doubt or even fear for some. What do you mean I can eat rocky road if I want? Others might be able to have just a little, but once I start I won’t be able to start. Below are three ways intuitive eating fits into your holiday season.

  1. Silence the food police

The food police say you can’t eat certain foods. They’re bad. In fact, if you eat these bad foods, you are a bad person. Even if it’s your favourite food, you better resist. Intuitive eating at Christmas would reply back, “Yes, this is a treat, but I can have it if I want it. It’s part of Christmas and I enjoy it”. Stop and assess if you indeed feel like that food right then. If the answer is yes, then you can proceed without guilt. If the answer is no, you can always have it in a few hours, or tomorrow, or next Christmas party. Silencing the food police allows you to skip the “moral” dilemma around breaking food rules and being a “bad” person. Knowing you can have a food whenever helps prevent losing control.

2. Use the hunger scale

I love the hunger scale! Think of your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being painfully stuffed. Before heading for seconds or reaching your hand into a bowl of lollies, determine where you are on the scale. Are you actually hungry? If not, will you enjoy the treat as much as you would a little later? How will you physically feel after eating this item? If having even just a few more bites will put you into a physically uncomfortable position, take a pause.

3. Do some joyful movement

A recent continuing education of mine reframed exercise as “joyful movement”. While the name seems a bit silly, it does capture what exercise should be: something we enjoy. Find an activity you look forward to rather than dread, that makes you feel good during rather than want to vomit, and where you feel good afterward rather than so sore you can’t get off the lounge. Take the grandkids on a nature walk, have a dance party in the aircon, or cool off in the pool. Choosing activities that make you feel good can also help you choose foods that make you feel good.

If you’re anxious about getting through Christmas and New Year, I’m still seeing people next week on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd. After that sessions will start up 4 Jan. We’re here for you if you’re ready to ditch dieting and learn intuitive eating in 2021!

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