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No, you don’t have to ‘make up’ for enjoying Christmas!

Diet-culture is always lurking around the corner, waiting for an opportunity to make us feel bad about our bodies and food choices. But it hits its guilt-inducing peak over Christmas and New Year.

Holidays like Christmas can be really tough for people who are constantly trying to control their food. It’s such a normal (and often praised) thing to be trying to always ‘eat clean’ or ‘avoid junk’ or generally abide by any food rules that require you to supress cravings. It’s no wonder we struggle so much around holiday time, because those things we spend so much mental energy trying to avoid are suddenly all around us! There’s nothing but fried entrees and alcohol at the work party, your Aunt will bring a batch of your favourite mince tarts to your place, clients give you gifts of chocolate and wine… you get the picture!

…And the Cycle Continues…

All this might be fine for other people, but for you, the urge to binge on all these forbidden fruits is a constant battle. No matter how hard you fight, you still find yourself at the bottom of a box of Favourites more often than you’d like to admit. Each Christmas you promise yourself that you’ll be ‘good’, and that you’ll give away the chocolates, or bring carrot sticks to your family parties, or throw away the leftovers… But all these tactics just don’t work. You over eat just as much as you did last year. You start the new year feeling overwhelming guilt, and completely out of control around food. Then, of course, you vow to make up for the damage with strict dieting, and a punishing new exercise regime. Until you can’t keep punishing yourself any longer, or until you injure yourself, that is.

If you’re prone to lower body-esteem and looking for ways to ‘make up’ for Christmas when the National Dieting Month of January rolls around, try taking some preventative action right now!

Take Some Preventative Action

First, let’s look at the facts:

Research shows that people who eat ‘intuitively’ (in line with their body’s natural appetite cues), have:

  • more healthy overall eating patterns (NOT less healthy as you might expect when you allow yourself to eat any type of food you’re craving!)
  • lower risk of diseases like diabetes,
  • tend to be at a lower weight and have stable weight over the years (instead of the usual gain year by year), and
  • FAR healthier relationships with food and their body image, including lower risk of debilitating eating disorders

Doesn’t that sound like what we’re all looking for? How ironic that the path to getting those things is to quit dieting and quit focussing on your weight!

So if we want to dip our toes in and try a different, kinder approach to holiday eating, we can start by looking at what intuitive eaters do differently to the rest of us.

What Do Intuitive Eaters Do Differently?

Firstly, they make food choices by listening to their body, instead of listening to outside forces like New Weekly magazine, a meal plan in the latest best-selling diet book, or rigidly avoiding all foods with things like carbs or sugar.

But how exactly do intuitive eaters make food decisions, then, if they’re deliberately shutting down outside food rules? Here are some of the things they look for:

  • What’s my body telling me right now about my level of hunger? Do I have rumbles, is my concentration waning, or am I just constantly thinking about food?
  • What foods would be the best at satisfying my hunger right now AND taste the most enjoyable?
  • If I can eat whatever food I want right now, what do I really feel like eating?
  • Is it physical hunger I’m feeling right now, or another emotional need, like boredom or anxiety, that would be better met with something other than food?
  • Am I still enjoying this meal as much as I was when I started eating it? Or am I getting full/ getting over the taste of it yet?
  • Since I can eat this food again whenever I want to, would I feel uncomfortably full if I kept eating it now or would I feel more comfortable if I stopped eating it?

When you’re so used to following rules with food, it’s not easy to look inward for answers to the questions of what, when, and how much to eat. It takes time, persistence, and a lot of patience with yourself while you’re re-learning these essential eating skills. On this path, it’s important to know that there are no mistakes, just opportunities to experiment with food, and learn about what works for you and what doesn’t. The skills for tuning in to your body CAN be re-learned. You can also re-learn the ability to trust that your body’s signals and cravings won’t lead you down a path of unbridled overeating. Our bodies know what foods help them to function the best. Bodies are far more clever than we usually give them credit! And if you do find it difficult to tune in to how your body is feeling, or if this concept brings up some thoughts that are upsetting, or just difficult to deal with, help is available. Consider booking some sessions with a Dietitian or Psychologist who uses a Non-Diet (sometimes called Health At Every Size) approach.

If you want to learn more about the concept of intuitive eating, and skills needed to implement it, I recommend you check out these books

‘Intuitive Eating’ (3rd edition- not the 1st or 2nd please!) by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

‘Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand About Weight’, Linda Bacon.

 

‘Why Diets Make Us Fat’, Sandra Aamodt, or watch her TED talk, here.

 

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