The holidays are meant to be a beautiful time of year, but they can also be stressful. More social engagements, the pressure to spend more money, and exposure to more indulgent food and drinks than usual might leave you feeling out of control. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Trying to place too much pressure, too many restrictions, and too many rules around our food choices can actually backfire, leaving us feeling like we’re spiraling out of control. This is where intuitive eating comes in.
To be honest, intuitive eating over the holidays isn’t that different than any other time of year. Sure, you may have more exposure to foods that you typically find tempting, but the beauty with intuitive eating is that you get to enjoy them, guilt-free.
Whether you’ve been eating intuitively for years or are just dipping your toes into the concept, I’m hoping these tips will help you eat intuitively during the holiday season.
1. Eat what you love
There’s no doubt that there’s an abundance of desserts, drinks, and rich foods offered around the holidays. But just because they’re offered, doesn’t mean you have to eat them. How many times have you mindlessly snacked on the candy canes in the jar, only to realize that you don’t even like candy canes? When we give ourselves permission to eat what we want, many foods become less appealing. We can allow ourselves the time and energy to step back and reflect on what we’re actually excited to be eating, and what we’re eating simply because it’s in front of us. This doesn’t only apply to less nutritious foods, either. If you hate squash, there’s no point in forcing yourself to eat it, just because it may be nutritious. Eat and enjoy what you actually love this holiday season, and politely decline the food that really just doesn’t do it for you (whether it’s the holiday dessert or the squash).
2. If you want something, eat it
Many people go into the holidays terrified of weight gain, meaning they’ll restrict what they eat or only focus on eating really nutritious foods. But as we’ve discussed before, the all-or-nothing mindset just doesn’t work. When we focus so much on restricting food, either through eating less or not enjoying the foods we truly want, those foods become more appealing. We begin to obsess over the food that we aren’t eating, constantly spending energy trying to avoid it, or fantasizing over when we might have it again. When we do finally eat that food again, we often overeat, because we’ve spent so long restricting. This isn’t healthy. When we allow ourselves to eat and enjoy the foods we genuinely want and move on, we establish a healthy relationship with food where we know we don’t have to overeat, because we’ll always give ourselves permission to eat it.
3. Get rid of guilt
You should never feel guilty for eating what you love, especially around the holidays. Food is tied up in traditions, comfort, and memories, and to expect ourselves to completely neglect that for the sake of “health” isn’t healthy. Being obsessed with health isn’t healthy. What’s healthy is eating the foods you love, and moving on. Feeling grateful for the opportunity to get to enjoy this season and the food and memories that come with it, and move on, releasing the guilt. When we feel guilty for the food we eat, it often makes us feel that we have to restrict it even more, using will-power. But will-power is a finite resource, we only have so much of it. When we inevitably cave (because we always will), we can end up eating more of that food that we would have if we just let ourselves enjoy it when cravings strike. Getting rid of the guilt allows for intuitive eating based on our hunger levels, our cravings, our emotions and the situation.
4. Exercise because it feels good
So many people use exercise during the holiday season to ‘compensate’ for ‘over-eating’. But it doesn’t work like that. All over-exercising does is creates an unhealthy relationship with movement and our bodies. This may come as a surprise to many people, but exercising is actually supposed to feel good. It’s supposed to help us feel energized, release anxious feelings, and make us feel like we’re taking care of both our negative and physical health. I’m not saying you’ll be jumping for joy before every single workout, but instead of seeing it as a punishment, it should be seen as something that is going to feel good for you, mentally and physically.
A huge part of this is finding movement you enjoy. If you hate running, don’t run. If the thought of jumping on a spin bike makes you shudder, don’t do it. Personally, I spent so much time trying to force myself to enjoy the gym but found that I was so much happier running. In turn, I looked forward to running more, and it encouraged me to find value in exercising that went far beyond how it made my physical appearance look. Whether you love running, walking, yoga, strength training, spinning, or dancing around in your living room, try to find something you enjoy.
5. Find ways to support yourself
As a Dietitian, I still want you to try and get your nutritious foods this time of year. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend holiday parties only eating salad or turning down your favorite dessert. Instead, I recommend trying to find small ways that you can fuel yourself to ensure you have lasting energy to get you through the holidays happily and healthfully, mentally and physically. For many of my clients, this looks like making sure they have delicious, nutritious, easy grab and go snacks on hand to keep them feeling fuelled on those busy days. I recommend my oat cookie energy balls, sundried tomato hummus or chia pudding. I also recommend clients to prep ingredients that can easily be used across many quick meals, like brown rice, roasted chickpeas, garlic tofu, and roasted vegetables.
The holidays are approximately one month of the entire year, but intuitive eating is important to implement all year round. Try to remind yourself that the holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and if we’re lucky enough to spend this time of year surrounded by family and friends, we should be focusing on that more than what we’re eating.
If you’re struggling to implement intuitive eating into your life, feel free to reach out to me to book your FREE 15-minute consultation to see if we’d be a good fit for personalized nutrition counseling.
Want soup recipes to cozy up with this holiday season? Check out my Everyday Vegan Soups Ebook! 12 Vegan Sauces that Nourish from the Inside Out.
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