How to tackle feelings of guilt around food at Christmas

So the Christmas season is in full swing and we’re edging closer and closer to Christmas Day. But before we hit that day, this ultimately means (for a lot of people) a lot of opportunity for overindulging on food and drink, as we are bombarded with invitations to Christmas parties, dinners and get togethers that often encourage more food and drink than we would normally consume. For some people, this is well accepted and taken advantage of with nothing but feelings of enjoyment… but for others, it often invites feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame.

Unfortunately for some people, Christmas is a time where their relationship with food may becoming increasingly more challenging, and feelings of anxiety and guilt around food may creep in- making it almost impossible to make the most out of a time which should be nothing but a time to enjoy yourself!

First of all, allowing yourself to feel guilty, will also impact your mood overall. Guilt can lower your self-esteem and furthermore leaving you feeling like ‘you should have done better’. Well you can stop that now. If guilt gets the best of you, then fight back and tell that voice that you ARE enough, and you DO deserve to enjoy an indulging moment as much as the next person. There is no ‘right way’ to enjoy food. As a nutritionist, I always encourage ‘balance’ but let’s face it, the Christmas season is probably not going to be your most ‘balanced’ month in terms of eating. Now, I am fully aware that a variety of people may be reading this- people who suffer with their weight, have a bad relationship with food or find it very difficult to know what ‘healthy’ means. I will do my best to target everyone.

I have put together a few points, in hope that at least a few of them will apply to and be able to help you feel less guilty and anxious around food at Christmas.

  1. Ditch the words ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’

Some of us are prone to listening to that critical ‘inner voice’ that tells us we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ have done something… ‘You really shouldn’t have had that extra chocolate’- sound familiar? A little tip I have for you is tell yourself beforehand that ‘I am going to enjoy this chocolate, however much it may be, and I will not feel bad about it afterwards’. By assuring yourself that you won’t allow that voice to creep in, you are already allowing yourself to process this, and reassuring yourself that it is okay to join in the fun and eat a few more chocolates than you normally would. Yes, we might feel a little uncomfortable for a while, but this is normal, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal.

  1. Practice mindfulness

Mindful eating is something that is becoming increasingly more popular and for good reason. Research has suggested that mindfulness can moderate the relationship between disordered eating cognitions and disordered eating behaviours (1) as well as helping to treat conditions such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders (2). Now this is not to say that mindful eating will ‘cure’ your feelings of guilt and anxiety however, they may well help. Mindful eating requires you to slow down, and pay more attention to what you’re eating. For example, paying attention to the smell, colour, texture and taste of the food actually allows you to savour your food choice and enjoy your eating experience more. Mindfulness is often suggested to those who suffer with digestive issues such as bloating, therefore this any also alleviate feelings of discomfort after eating more than usual. Mindful eating is also suggested for people who want to cope with perceived feelings of guilt and anxiety around food, wanting to improve their emotional sate around food, and even just to improve and maintain their overall wellbeing and relationship with food.

  1. Silence your ‘inner critic’

Do me a favour- every time you heat that ‘inner voice’ say something negative, hit back and say no! Argue with it, and it’s less likely to come back. Stand up for yourself, and reassure yourself that are allowed to enjoy your food choices- because you’re with friends and family who are having a whale of a time, and you deserve to be in on that! Stop being so hard on yourself and focus on the things you’re appreciative for this Christmas.

  1. Pay no attention to ‘diet culture’

This one especially applies all year round! If you leave this page with anything, please let it be the fact that you will no longer pay attention to fad diets, detox diets, low carb diets etc. They have no place in the world of health and nutrition! These kinds of diets and advice that supposedly equals good health, couldn’t be further from the truth! Do not buy in to magazine and online articles that tell you special diets are the way forward. If you are taking on board nutrition advice, please make sure it is from a registered nutritionist or dietician.  

  1. Eat what you are comfortable with

A lot of people feel ‘pressure’ to eat more around Christmas. This can be particularly difficult for those who have had or are currently suffering with an eating disorder. Around the festive season, you will probably be faced with more dessert choices than you’ve been used to and that’s okay. An idea to lessen anxiety around this is to try making your own dessert. Anxiety around food is often heightened when you’re not too sure what you are eating. You may find it more enjoyable and less anxiety provoking to spend some time cooking up a recipe of your ow for everyone to enjoy together.

The fact is, everyone eats more around Christmas time, that’s just how it is. But come the New Year, the festivities and parties have calmed down, and likelihood is you will go back to the same eating pattern you were used to. You do not need to prepare yourself for some sort of ‘detox’ diet because guess what… your liver will do that for you. I will be dedicating a blog post to January detox diets soon!

But anyway- nourish your body and feed your soul this Christmas by enjoying every little bit of it and DO NOT let those voices creep in and ruin your fun! Take each day as it comes and allow yourself to be happy. Because that’s what life is all about right!

Please note I am not a psychologist and am no expert in the area of anxiety however I just wanted to document a few points that might help some of you out this season!

If you feel like baking or making your own festive food then you can check out my recipes page for ideas!

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References

1 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22888181/

2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15256293/

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