Note: This article is supporting content to the Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance course.
Author: Dr. Emilia Thompson
In an article for Coaches completing the Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance course Dr Emilia Thompson shares tips on a positive approach to Christmas.
With so many expectations, social occasions that are centred on food, high pressure family situations and a distinct lack of routine, the festive period can leave many of us and our clients feeling anxious. Anxious about what to eat, when to eat, how to deal with others’ opinions of our food choices, fat gain, muscle loss – you name it, people can feel uneasy about it at this time of year. There are a few ways that you can reduce this anxiety, by being accountable for your decisions and being present in the celebrations and in your meal and advising clients to do the same.
- Be mindful with your food. Be present in what you have in front of you, whether that’s a family roast dinner or a chocolate coin. Rather than eating whilst lost in a film, notice the taste, texture and change in fullness that the food brings you. Take your time with meals. Try setting yourself a 10-minute minimum duration to finish them. If you are eating with others, put your cutlery down whilst you have conversations so that you are present in both your food and your discussions.
- Honour your hunger and fullness. Rather than relying on tracking, you might find it a good time to tune in to your own hunger and fullness signals. Before eating, ask yourself how hungry you actually are, and if the food you are about to eat is going to satiate you. Again, during a meal (before going for second helpings), ask yourself if you are actually still hungry or if you are full, and if the latter, what is your reason for going for more? It may be that you won’t get the opportunity to eat that specific food again for a while or it’s really delicious (think mum’s special recipe), or are you simply eating as a result of mum pressure or leftover guilt?
- Practice food neutrality. Remove the idea that foods are good or bad. You are far less likely to feel the need to eat all of the quality street in one day when you don’t associate it as something that needs to be ‘gotten rid of’. Food is food, with no moral value, no cleanliness rating and certainly no guilt rating.
- Own your decisions. What others think about what you eat is irrelevant (that’s if they even think anything about it all all). Distance yourself from those who vocalise judgement, at least in your head. You are an adult with your own decision-making ability. You do not have to eat out of guilt, perceived judgment or misunderstanding. Be kind to others’ feelings whilst having respect for your own boundaries, as it is when you let your boundaries be moved that you will resent others for your own choices. A simple “this is what serves me best, you do not need to understand” response works well in these cases.
- Calories do still count. Being mindful and taking time away from macro tracking does not immediately negate the calories in foods. You may not count calories, but calories do still count. Although one or two days won’t make a big dent in your overall calorie intake, if your festive period runs over a number of weeks and you have overarching fat loss goals, you will still need to be mindful of this.
- Give yourself permission to eat. Avoid a festive binge-restrict cycle by giving yourself permission to eat. When you do eat past fullness, rather than punishing yourself with severe restriction the next day simply listen to your hunger and eat accordingly. Your appetite will likely be lower and if you honour this you may find that you eat less and move more unintentionally.
- Be present. Memories are made by being in the moment, so don’t waste that moment obsessing about food that you have eaten. Call yourself out for those judgemental thoughts and practice compassion towards yourself by stopping them and replacing them with a positive thought, affirmation or gratitude. Remember, you are not your thoughts. Happy Christmas!
There are a few ways that you can reduce this anxiety, by being accountable for your decisions and being present in the celebrations and in your meal and advising clients to do the same.
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