- “How can I avoid overeating?”
- “Everyone is always talking about their diets. I feel guilty. I just want to eat want I want”. “What should I eat on Christmas Day?”
- “I don’t want to put on weight but…..”
- “How do I eat healthy over the holidays?”
- “I’ve gained a lot of weight. What will they think?”
So what’s the answer How can we be “healthy” over Christmas?
Festive occasions are times when there can be an overabundance of food on offer (and guilt too). They can be a stressful, difficult time.
Originally when I started practising as a Dietitian, I would try and come up with what I thought was helpful ideas. You know. Lower calorie options to cook up like more salads, healthful desserts and healthier ways to cook a roast. I had always encouraged people to make a decision on what THEY WANT TO DO but at the same time had tried to offer “healthy tips”. 18 years later I realise I got it all wrong.
- Firstly, we now know portion size control and dieting doesn’t work in the long term. They backfire. People who diet will often return to their original weight or higher.
- We also know people can live long lives without fitting into the so-called, “healthy BMI” category
- We know weight stigma and diet culture are likely to be causing us more physical and emotional harm than any potential ill-effects from something we eat at Christmas
- We don’t have to pursue health if we don’t want to
- Normal eating is sometimes eating more than we want to. It’s OK to overeat!
How To Be “Healthy” Over Christmas
Actually to be honest. There is no right or wrong answer on how to be healthy at Christmas. What is healthy for one person might be different from another. And also, we don’t have to strive for health if we don’t want to. News alert. We have choices!
To my knowledge, no one has ever done a scientific study into this topic (ha ha). So I’ve come up with my three top tips to help you be a little more at ease over the silly season:
- Show gratitude for your meals and your time with family and friends. Some studies have shown there are links between being grateful and having less negativity, reduced depression, more sleep and greater life satisfaction. It could take a 10/10 stressful day to a 5/10.
- Move your body. If there is something you enjoy doing, I invite you to make space for exercise at Christmas. Our mental health can benefit from regular movement. If you haven’t exercised in a really long time (but want and have the capacity to), you might like to check out the This Girl Can Campaign for ideas.
- Change the conversation. If you hear someone talking about their diet they plan to start on Boxing Day, discussing the guilt they feel from eating or someone commenting on a person’s appearance, change the conversation to something else quick smart!
Or – whatever – You can ignore me and just do what feels right for you!
NB: This is an updated post from my original 2014 article which had too many diet culture tips for my liking