As the ‘silly’ season draws closer, I hear more and more people go into panic mode about gaining weight over Christmas. Yes, there may be extra parties and celebrations, but that doesn’t mean you should lose all self control. That goes the other way, too – if you’re usually a restrained eater, you can enjoy yourself without feeling bad. As a dietitian, I put this forward… guilt has no place with food or eating. Food should be a positive and enjoyable aspect of life, and during the festive season you need to consider that food is more than the nutrients it contains. Food plays an important role in sharing and togetherness. So this year, I suggest savouring and being selective, rather than gorging and feeling like you ate way too much!
Tips to Help You Eat Guilt Free
1. Join in!
First of all – don’t be scared! If you’re prone to overeating, you may think you won’t be able to control yourself if you have just one taste of dessert. With some focus and smart strategies in place, you might surprise yourself! On the other hand, if you are a restrained eater and opt for an undressed salad while your family or colleagues enjoy their roast turkey and trifle, perhaps it’s time you relaxed a little and joined in. Rather than eating too much, have mindful tastes and sensible portions of the shared fare. If it’s a buffet, fill your plate with samples of those foods you truly want to try, combined with plenty of lovely plant foods.
2. Eat Slowly
If you are the type of person who is capable of inhaling a meal in five minutes, you need to slow down. Eating slowly helps you be mindful about what you are eating but it also allows you to notice when you’ve had enough. It takes the body a while to register fullness, so slow it down and let those fullness cues kick in before you feel like you are carrying around Santa’s belly.
3. Savour Your Trifle
Whether it’s plum pudding or pavlova, your favourite food should be celebrated and enjoyed. What’s important is being able to manage your portions and setting aside a moment to really savour it. I have some clients who schedule in their weekly affair with their favourite food; this is important because indulgent foods aren’t for every day. There is no point banning yourself from your favourite food – instead, have a little and enjoy every mouthful.
4. Stop Calling Food Good or Bad
When we refer to foods as good and bad, is there any wonder we feel guilty/bad for eating them? Rather than referring to certain foods as ‘naughty’, start to view them as delicious. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a small slice of Nanna’s Christmas cake, but there’s definitely something wrong if you lose sleep over it. Try sharing that cake, or even having it after an active outing.
5. Plan Ahead
If we look at a week of meals, there are 21 occasions to eat a ‘meal’ and potentially 14 occasions to eat a snack (morning and afternoon tea). So that totals 35 eating occasions. If one or two of those ‘eating occasions’ is a little indulgent and the rest of your week is a healthy balance, then you won’t suddenly gain mountains of weight. What is important is what you do for the majority of the week. Remember, one celebratory meal won’t make you overweight in the same way as one super healthy meal won’t suddenly make you lean! Pull out your calendar and plan your Christmas parties, and perhaps incorporate some exercise on those days as well.
6. Be Socially Active
If you are organising the work Christmas party why not make it an active one? Head to the lake or park for some volleyball, frisbee or cricket. Pack healthy hampers and sunblock! Provide loads of non-alcoholic options – lime and soda water, vegetable juices or iced water with sliced citrus.
So, take some of my tips on board and enjoy your Christmas. Eating should be a pleasurable part of your life. If you feel like you cannot control the guilt factor, then maybe it’s time to seek help from a professional.
Let me finish with a quote from Michael Pollan. “Historically, people have eaten for a great many reasons other than biological necessity. Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family & spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity. Eating has been as much about culture as it has been about biology.” Remember, guilt has no place with food or eating. Happy Christmas!