We all want to enjoy festive eating, and we totally should. Christmas is a wonderful time of year and filled with some pretty amazing food.
It can be tempting (and very easy, especially after the last couple of years we’ve had) to spend the whole of December indulging in everything.
And there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want to do. It’s important to relax and just enjoy whatever you want, especially on the 2 or 3 days around Christmas itself.
But if you know from past experience that you don’t feel great when you indulge too much, these are some tips that can help you find a middle ground through the festive season.
That sweet spot where you savour the best of what you love, and avoid feeling sick, stuffed, sluggish or frustrated with yourself after.
Here are 4 tips to consider.
Tip 1 – The ‘worth it’ list
There is so much food around at this time of year.
And it’s tempting to eat all of it cos hey, it’s Christmas.
But when we think about it, many foods we eat more for the sake of it, rather than because they’re really special.
For example, every year my family gathering is accompanied by a large box of quality street.
And every year I find myself rummaging through it, getting a taste for the chocolate, eating a few more (as well as everything else that’s lying around), and feeling a bit sick after.
But when I actually consider it, the chocolate is not exceptional (Hotel Chocolate on the other hand, totally is). I wouldn’t be missing out by not having any Quality Street.
So when thinking about how to enjoy festive eating and feel great after, it can really help to write a list list. What’s worth it vs what’s not worth it.
Basically, what Christmas foods are awesome, delicious, a hell freaking yes… and what you could leave to save space for something better.
What’s worth it might change in different situations too.
For example, Christmas food is around through the whole of December.
You could eat it all through December, but how would it make you feel to do that?
For a lot of people, it’s good for about 10 seconds. Then they feel gradually more bloated, lethargic and annoyed with themselves as the month goes on.
You could say ‘anything that’s awesome – I’ll plan it in’.
And scatter a few tasty Christmas treats through your week. For this month, it’s fine if they take the place of a healthier snack.
It’s always up to you. What will ultimately make you feel best?
Deciding ahead of time makes it infinitely easier to make a good choice in the moment. So I’d highly recommend writing a quick list to give you clarity – what’s worth it, and what’s not.
Here’s an example.
Tip 2 – Plan your food around festive eating events
Around Christmas, it’s easy to end up existing on mostly mince pies and chocolate.
But this usually doesn’t make us feel amazing.
There’s nothing wrong with those foods, they just work better when we incorporate nutritious choices around them. And to do that, it helps to have a bit of a plan.
The goal is to make life easier for your future self by planning foods you’ll actually want to eat. This is a good ratio to aim for:
- 80% nutritious choices that you enjoy, and that make you feel healthy, energised and on track.
- 20% anything less nutritious, but very delicious, that you love.
On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, this ratio might be very different, and that’s totally fine.
Those two days are there to relax and enjoy.
But the rest of the month, it will benefit you enormously to have an idea of what healthy foods you will eat.
And this doesn’t have to be time consuming or anywhere perfect.
Just note down what you could have, looking for good nutrition as often as possible.
Christmas food is generally high in fat, carbs and calories.
So around those choices, it will help a lot to:
- Prioritise protein
- Fill half your plate with veg
- Reduce your carbohydrate intake (have extra veg instead)
- Reduce your fat intake (e.g. minimising use of oil and butter, and snacking on fruit, high protein yogurt or a protein shake instead of nuts)
I can’t repeat this too many times – it doesn’t need to be perfect.
A realistic and doable plan reduces the amount of decisions you need to keep making.
If you’ve got something easy and relatively nutritious planned, you’ll be far more likely to stay on track.
And whenever you make a great choice, make sure you feel good about it!
Reward yourself with a hit of dopamine by acknowledging how well you’re doing.
You’re taking care of you and that’s awesome.
You have total food freedom. And you’re CHOOSING something healthy this time, because you know it will nourish your body. You want to feel healthy and energised, as well as free to indulge.
You are in control.
Here’s an example of a daily food plan for normal life.
Around Christmas time, those snack ideas could be chocolate, a mince pie, or whatever else is worth it.
Tip 3 – What you tell yourself matters
December is a prime time for experiencing more urges to binge or overeat.
You get the taste for sugar and all the sweet treats lying around.
Your brain says ‘there’s so much food around, it’s really hard to resist, let’s just eat’.
And ‘if you’re going to eat a little bit, you may as well just eat the whole lot. Let’s start again in January!’
It doesn’t need to be that way.
What you tell yourself matters. A lot.
So don’t let your brain keep saying ‘this is really hard’.
What if it was easy?
What if you knew you could have whatever you wanted, and you’re just choosing not to eat that now because you want to feel great?
When we think temptations are everywhere, it’s going to be really hard, and we always cave in…
We see temptations everywhere, find it really hard, and end up caving in.
Your thoughts are an instruction to your brain.
If you tell yourself:
‘I can do this’
‘I’ve got a plan and I know I can follow it’
‘I’m going to slowly and mindfully enjoy everything, and stay in tune with my fullness signals’
You’ll be far more likely to stay on track and make yourself proud.
Bonus tip: visualise success.
We tend to picture ourselves struggling, finding things hard, doing what we’ve done before.
Instead, imagine yourself doing what you want to do.
See yourself in a tempting food situation, and handling it well.
What thoughts would you be thinking?
What actions would you be taking to help yourself stay on track?
I promise this isn’t woo-woo stuff – it’s scientifically proven to be effective.
In essence: when you visualise success, you give your brain a pathway to follow to make it happen.
And although it takes practise, every time you visualise is essentially a practise rep.
Our brains can’t distinguish between what’s real and what we vividly imagine.
So imagine yourself doing what you want to do, and celebrate the changes you’ll start to create.
Tip 4 – focus on great habits and keep going
Christmas is only a few days.
It’s what you do the rest of the year that makes the difference.
If you have good habits that you usually follow, that’s way more important.
You can practise those habits around the indulgences too – look for good nutrition, and be active whenever you can. Walking, lifting weights, and any other activities you enjoy will help enormously right now.
For mindset and getting yourself back on track quickly, I can’t recommend this book highly enough – Chasing Cupcakes by Elizabeth Benton (<< click to find it on amazon).
Remember, you can’t mess this up.
Avoid the scales for a few days after – they won’t be a fair reflection of where you’re at anyway.
When you eat more food, more carbs, and more salty foods, you’ll weigh more. It’s partly extra volume of food in your body. And partly because carbs and salt cause us to retain more water. It drains away pretty quick as long as you just get back to healthy choices and keep going.
So, just get back to healthy choices, and keep going.
Have a wonderful Christmas and here’s to a much better, healthier and happier 2022.
If you need any help and support with your health, fitness and weight loss goals, find out more about online coaching here: