Does intuitive eating at Christmas mean essentially following the same menus and forms of food day after day just to feel secure? No! It actually encourages individuals to take the occasion into their own hands and to celebrate it in an open manner that includes satisfaction of all senses. It actually means noticing your urges and being able to resist the temptation to overindulge. It involves actively engaging with the festivities in a spirit of enjoyment, rather than suffering with guilt. In short, it involves taking responsibility for your eating habits at Christmas so that you can enjoy all the aspects of the celebration without feeling guilty about it.
One of the main problems with disordered eating at Christmas is that we allow ourselves to get away with it. We make resolutions to eat healthier, exercise more, or engage with other activities that keep us occupied rather than giving attention to our actual eating habits. We make resolutions to avoid certain foods, or we hope that by not eating something that we might end up feeling sick or hungry. Instead, we find comfort in our food, putting the karmic consequences of our choices and actions to the back of our minds. We then start the Christmas festivities grumbling about how bad this whole thing is going to be next year.
Disciplined eating at Christmas involves having healthy foods, drinking healthy drinks, tuning in to our feelings, accepting that sometimes things will get us stressed, exercising, meditating, appreciating the good that comes our way, and appreciating holidays in general. The goal here isn’t to starve oneself but rather use this as a period of time to grow and nurture our relationships at work, in our families, and in our communities. It’s also a great time to take stock of our lives and learn to appreciate the little things in life. Christmas is often known for overly consumerist and materialistic living. But if we take a step back and analyze our own behavior, we will see that many of the stress-related reactions are actually born out of our need to have possessions and material things. Instead of seeing Christmas as the time for making friends and having fun with families, we might start seeing it as a time to reflect on our own failures, lack of success, debts, emotional baggage, etc., and help give ourselves a chance to evaluate where we’re at in our lives.
If you feel like eating at Christmas, consider planning a healthier meal or snack. Some foods are just unhealthy on Christmas day: foods high in calories (stuffing sugar and fat-filled snacks into your mouth makes you hungry all throughout the day), foods with empty calories (junk food, etc.) and high in salt and sugar, and carbonated drinks. All of these are difficult to avoid on Christmas day, but there are healthier alternatives. For instance, instead of eating a bucket full of jello, fill your stomach with a bowl of soup. Not only will your stomach feel lighter immediately after the soup, but you will also be giving your body a much more complete source of nutrients during the course of the day.
You also want to avoid unhealthy carbohydrates. These include breads, potatoes, sugar, candy, chocolate, etc. If you must have one of these on Christmas day, choose sugar-free cakes and sweets. You can still eat lots of healthy foods – whole-grain pastas, fruits, vegetables, and other food choices. And don’t forget the healthy alcoholic drinks, such as wine and beer, which have their place at festive gatherings but are not necessary on Christmas day.
Finally, avoid alcohol, especially in the case of Christmas drinks. It is well-known that drinking can lead to blood glucose crashes, which in turn can cause you to experience bouts of depression and anxiety during the day. In addition, alcohol’s effect on the brain is not fully understood, but binge eating may increase the risk of triggering a depressive or manic episode. Try drinking less and watching your diet more carefully during the holidays, especially if you tend to have a drink or two during every meal.
Finally, remember that you don’t have to stop eating during the holiday season. It is perfectly healthy to have a light snack between meals. A small bowl of soup, a bowl of cereal, or a glass of fruit juice all make excellent snacks. You can enjoy these while you enjoy the holiday season!
Remember, most of all, that you don’t need to skip meals. A well balanced meal is often the best way to start off the holiday season on the right track. So take the time to plan healthy and satisfying feasts that you and your family will surely enjoy. A little effort like making healthy Christmas foods will pay off in the dividends for years to come!