I love the holidays, but there was a time in my life when the food part of them caused me a lot of stress.
Whether it was Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s, each time I would promise myself I’d be “good” and not go crazy on the food, especially the vast array of delicious desserts my family would bring to share.
And each year, I’d disappoint myself. I’d not only “give in” to allll the sweets, I’d also find myself eating them uncontrollably. Eating until I was sick, feeling bloated and light-headed and swearing that was IT… then finding myself back for more 20 minutes later, in an attempt to feel better.
For anyone who can relate to this, it’s a terrible cycle to be in. It feels like you have no control, and it feels shameful.
But for the last several years, I’ve actually been able to enjoy food on the holidays like a normal person.
I’ve eaten what I wanted, felt satisfied, and enjoyed dessert without any guilt or shame. I’ve been free of binging or restricting and all that comes with it. I’ve been able to enjoy other things more:
- family and friends
- laughs and memories
- Christmas lights!
- meaningful conversations
- etc, etc, etc
because there’s no longer this preoccupying sense of food anxiety distracting me from what truly matters.
I wish I could tell everyone individually what is best for them when it comes to making peace with food. The truth is, we are all different and it’s not always a straight-and-narrow process. But I’d like to share has helped me—in fact, what has saved me and healed me—in repairing my relationship with food and what I’ve seen help others.
How to Eat Intuitively During the Holidays
While there were several steps in my journey, the most important one was discovering intuitive eating. So the following tips are just based two things:
1) intuitive eating principles
2) my personal experience re-shaping my mindset around food
(I’m also sharing two free tools I created to share with you, if you’d like them: an Intuitive Eating Holiday Workbook and a list of Mindful Eating Holiday Mantras. Click here to get them.)
#1 It’s Okay to Enjoy the Food… All of It
This might seem so simple, but it was one of the biggest mindset shifts I had to make. I spent so many years attaching morality to what I ate. If a food was high in sugar, high in fat, high in calories, not on my food plan, etc. etc. etc… it was “bad” and I shouldn’t eat it.
Thinking this way always backfired on me. At first, I would end up binging on those foods because they were “forbidden”… and we all know something being forbidden only makes it more desirable.
Years later, I would actually avoid those foods but turn to something else and overeat on it instead. For example, I’d avoid any desserts with fat in it but bring my own fat-free dessert.
While there’s nothing wrong with replacing a food if it satisfies you and you enjoy it, I was simply overeating on my “safe” food to prevent me from eating the forbidden one, leaving me feeling stuffed and in a sugar slump.
I was putting a bandaid on the food guilt. It wasn’t until I allowed myself permission to enjoy whatever I wanted that I finally learned what foods actually satisfied me.How to Practice Intuitive Eating During the Holidays Click To Tweet
I think a big reason we have so many eating problems and yo-yo dieting is because we’re taught that food should be a source of guilt and restriction all the time.
Food is pleasurable, and it’s a big part of most holidays. Embracing this rather than running from it is what set me free.
Explore the idea of giving yourself full permission. No guilt, no shame.
Note: I know this can be easier said than done, so here are some other questions I’ve asked myself in this scenario:
- What would giving myself full permission to eat anything feel like?
- What would I truly want to eat if I did?
- What emotions would come up with it?
- And what would happen if I sat with them a bit?
#2 It’s Okay to Not Focus on the Food
You might be spending the holidays with people who are fixated on what they’re not eating. Doesn’t mean you have to be. If a friend or family member is watching their calories or portions or doing paleo or no-sugar Whole30 or whatever… that’s fine. Wish them well, then go about your business listening to your body and enjoying this special time.
I used to be that person, and I was struggling. I was scared of not thinking about every bite I ate. But this was just causing me stress and detracting from the true importance of the holiday.
Now, I enjoy a mentally and physically healthy balance of food choices. And even though I think about food a LOT less, shifting my focus towards the bigger picture has made me more in tune with what’s really good for me. Which brings me to my next point…
#3 It’s Okay to Eat What Feels Good
If you want to add more of the vegetable side dishes to your plate because you know it will make you feel better during the day, that’s great! If you want another slice of grandma’s pie because it tastes good and gives you that familiar sense of family you only feel during the holidays, that’s great!
Intuitive eating doesn’t ultimately mean throwing out all aspects of health. It’s about realizing what makes you feel good, in mind and in body, and removing the negative emotions or beliefs about food that ultimately cause harm. I like to ask myself, how can I get the most holistic satisfaction out of this food?
I am constantly reminding myself that nothing is black or white. This is especially true during the holidays when we deserve enjoying all that comes with it: food and fellowship.
#4 Eating Mindfully is an Act of Self-Love
Make this holiday season about mindfulness—with food, with people, with your emotions—and see what changes for you.
Focusing on mindful, intuitive eating completely changed my life. But if this makes you envision me in a toga quietly meditating and taking 30 minutes to chew a single bite of food… that’s not what I’m talking about. (And how awkward would that be for everyone else sitting at the table?)
When I say “mindful,” I mean simply tuning in a little more:
- Taking some deep breaths.
- Noticing the food I’m about to eat: what do I notice about it’s size, color, texture, smell, and taste?
- Thinking about what I like about this food. Does it satisfy me?
- Wondering if I’m eating it because I truly want it, or because someone served it to me. How do I feel about that?
Mindfulness is simply about information: noticing the physical sensations of eating and the emotional feelings that come up as a result. I believe a lot of emotion-related eating issues are a result of trying to avoid or stifle those feelings.
Intuitive Eating Holiday Freebies
If you struggle with food guilt during the holidays, I hope this was helpful. I want everyone to feel comfortable while enjoying holiday food. So, I created two resources to help you avoid food anxiety and increase mindfulness during the holidays:
#1 The Intuitive Eating Holiday Workbook to help you examine your emotions around food during the holidays and identify those related to binge or emotional eating. This is meant to be less of a short-term fix and more of a way to get yourself thinking about why you might struggle with food during the holidays.
#2 A list of Mindful Eating Holiday Mantras — reminders to be mindful of your food choices while letting yourself enjoy holiday food — not stress about the amount of carb, fat, sugar content or feel guilty for your choices.
You can grab both of those (for FREE) by clicking here or the button below: