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‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings, family meals, and all of the delicious treats that come along with them. As a non-diet, Intuitive Eating Dietitian, I’m here to help you enjoy these festive occasions without guilt or shame. During the holidays it can be easy to get caught up in diet culture, particularly if “indulging” is often seen as shameful or looked down upon. So today we’re going to talk about how to use intuitive eating during the holidays so that you can feel more empowered around your food choices this holiday season. Keep reading!
The beauty of Intuitive Eating is that it allows us to listen to our own bodies and make decisions about what we eat based on our individual needs and desires. It gives us the freedom to savor our favorite holiday foods without worrying about “calories” or “weight gain”. Intuitive Eating helps us relax and enjoy the holidays with family and friends, free from anxieties about food or body image.
The holidays are a time for joy, family, and of course, food! But for many of us, this time of year also brings up feelings of stress and anxiety around what we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat. The good news is that you don’t have to succumb to the restrictive diets and “shoulds” that can come along with the holiday season. There are no rules for intuitive eating.
Through the practice of Intuitive Eating, you can break free from diet culture and enjoy the holiday season fully while still honoring your health.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based (1) approach to eating that focuses on tuning into our body’s natural hunger and fullness cues rather than external rules or guidelines. It enables you to make food choices based on nourishing your body while also taking into account pleasure, satisfaction, social connection, emotional needs, reward factor and sensory enjoyment. Intuitive Eating is about building a healthy relationship with food without guilt or deprivation so that you can move away from the restrictive mindset of dieting.
The holidays are a great time to practice Intuitive Eating as it allows for flexibility in what you choose to eat without feeling guilty or like a failure if you indulge in something less nutritious. You can allow yourself to enjoy all foods without judgement by making mindful choices that honor both your physical and emotional needs. Additionally, Intuitive Eating helps us to be better at managing emotions as it encourages us to acknowledge our feelings without using food as either a reward or a punishment.
Finding balance over the holidays doesn’t mean depriving yourself but instead learning how to meet your own individual needs while enjoying all aspects of life including food! With the help of an intuitive eating dietitian such as myself, I can work with you to develop strategies on how best to navigate physical cravings and emotional desires during this special time of year.
Tips for surviving the holidays with Intuitive Eating
- Eat breakfast: And lunch….and dinner…. In fact, staying well nourished during the day will help regulate your hunger and fullness signals, making it easier for you to eat from a place of body wisdom. It can also help minimize deprivation driven eating, which is a normal response to food restriction.
- Tune into your body’s cues: Developing an awareness of hunger, fullness and satisfaction levels can help you recognize when it is time to nourish your body as well as when it is time to peacefully stop. This intentional approach will allow you to savor each bite while also being aware of your physical sensations such as feeling uncomfortably full after eating a large meal or feeling satisfied after having just enough. It’s important not to put pressure on yourself during this process but rather trust that your body knows what it needs and let those internal signals guide you through mealtime decisions.
- Give yourself unconditional permission to eat: Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat during the holidays is an important part of intuitive eating and may be the most beneficial strategy for managing holiday stress. When you give yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it, without guilt or shame, you are creating a safe space within which you can enjoy foods. Unconditional permission is about choice and self-trust. Decisions are anchored in attunement with our body’s hunger and fullness cues, awareness of our emotional needs, and a desire to truly nurture ourselves.
- Diversify your plate: Eating a variety of foods that nourish not only your body but also your soul is a key component of practicing mindful and intuitive eating. During the holiday season, this can look like making sure to include a variety of colors and textures on the plate – for example, adding roasted sweet potatoes with garlic alongside savory stuffing or including both a salad and cooked green vegetables with dinner. It can also mean trying different foods that are unique to cultures or are traditional for the holiday – this adds a festive flair while expanding your culinary experiences! Additionally, diversifying your plate allows you to meet your nutritional needs as well as enjoy different flavors and textures.
- Reflect on your thoughts: Exploring your thoughts about food while navigating intuitive eating during the holidays season can help you to break away from the restrictive dieting mindset and reconnect with what really matters: enjoying the season with friends, family and loved ones. It’s important to remember that foods are neither “good” nor “bad” – all foods can fit within an intuitively guided lifestyle – but many of us attach emotional meaning to certain holiday dishes which we need to be aware of. Learning to discern any disempowering thoughts and beliefs you may have about a food (where did it come from? Is it really true? Does it really serve me or harm me?) can really help you move forward towards food freedom. At the end of the day, what matters most is how you feel after eating rather than what you might have consumed. Did you feel satiated? Did the meal leave you feeling energized or sluggish? How did it affect your mood? If you find yourself struggling with feelings of guilt or sadness afterwards, take some time to reflect on why those feelings might be there — it could be a sign that something else needs attention beyond just food.
- Enjoy the satisfaction: Prioritizing food enjoyment over trying to stick to strict rules can help minimize stress associated with mealtime decisions and prevent eating out of deprivation. Satisfaction is so important to the whole eating experience, that you can most certainly feel full but not satisfied after a meal. Allowing ourselves the pleasure of eating frees us from food obsessions, which gives us more time to actually nurture ourselves in a way that promotes our health and wellbeing. Need help getting your satisfaction? Check out this post.
- Remember that there’s no need to compensate for meals: It’s important to remember that you don’t need to “burn off” meals or undereat in order to make up for food choices. Intuitive eating isn’t about deprivation; it’s about honoring your body and providing yourself with nourishing foods that promote a positive relationship between you and the food you eat.
- Respect yourself: When you approach the holiday season with an open mind and an accepting attitude, you’re much more likely to make food decisions that are in line with what you truly want and need. Remember, no one else knows what’s best for your body – only you do! This means that being flexible and allowing yourself to enjoy favorite traditional foods while also being mindful of how they make you feel is key. And don’t forget to practice self-care! Taking time for yourself throughout this busy period is essential for keeping stress levels low and being able to make intentional food choices.
- Establish boundaries around diet talk: The holiday season often brings a lot of social pressure and conversation around food. Establishing boundaries with diet talk is important for maintaining a positive relationship with food and body image during the holidays. A key part of this process is to acknowledge that everyone has different needs, beliefs, and preferences when it comes to eating. One great way to respect those differences is to offer people the space and autonomy to make their own decisions about what they eat without judgement or interference from others. Practicing mindful communication may also help in avoiding conversations that could potentially lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or anxiety. If you find yourself in a situation where someone has shared their restrictive diet plans or food rules, you can refocus the conversation on something else entirely, or respectfully ask to change the topic. Check out some additional tips below.
The holidays are a time for celebration, family and friends, and of course – FOOD. For many people, the holidays can be a challenging time when it comes to food. There is so much pressure from diet culture to “avoid weight gain”, and often times we end up feeling guilty after eating them. If you’re struggling with intuitive eating during the holiday season, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered with these nine tips that will help you enjoy your food while you honor your body and respect yourself. How do you plan to honor your food enjoyment during the holiday season?
Hi! I’m Melissa, Registered Dietitian and mother of two dragons. When I’m not talking nutrition you can find me rolling around the floor with my kids, sewing, crafting, cooking or missing the 90s (seriously, music just isn’t the same). Read More…