Holiday Eating Strategies

By: Rachel Davidson-Evans, BASc

Reviewed by: Atheana Brown RD

The holidays are a wonderful time to reunite with loved ones and create lasting memories. For many though, the holidays can also bring about feelings of stress, guilt, and insecurity, one reason involving holiday eating. Sound familiar? Keep reading for some holiday eating strategies… without the guilt!

Eat Regularly 

No skipping meals here! Even during the busy holidays, it is important to schedule and enjoy meals like usual. Three meals and two snacks will help keep you fulfilled and feeling better for festive activities. Have a late dinner party? Enjoy a small snack 1-2 hours before in case dinner is not served quickly. Some feel compelled to skip a meal in order to enjoy holiday treats at dinner, but as we know, dieting just doesn’t work. Restriction, hunger, and stress combined with delicious holiday food can cause us to lose touch with hunger cues.

Holiday Eating Strategies

Be Mindful 

Speaking of being in touch with hunger cues, it is important to stay mindful during the holidays. Holiday celebrations can be a busy time, so keeping in touch with your natural cues can sometimes get lost. Take time to eat and savour each bite, find a space where you can sit and be intentional with your food choices, and notice and honour your cues of hunger and fullness. 

Enjoy your Favourites 

No food is on the naughty list this holiday. Enjoy your favourites that you love and can’t get any other time of year. Slow down and savour each bite. Remember, restriction is not healthy any time of year. You are allowed to enjoy yourself!

Make Time for Self-Care 

Remember- the holidays are supposed to be a holiday! Even though they can be chaotic, making time for self-care during the holidays is important. Aim to incorporate some form of stillness into your days and recharge your social battery, whether it be a walk to collect your thoughts, a candle-lit bath, journalling, or meditation, or whatever your body is telling you. Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated. Prioritizing self-care can help you reconnect with yourself and your needs, recharge, and stay energized for some family fun.

Holiday Eating Strategies

Set Boundaries 

Eating together with family or friends is a great bonding activity. During the holidays, though, food can be a source of stress. There may be someone in your family that pressures others into eating (having European family, I know the feeling all too well)! It can be difficult to resist persuasive family members when you don’t want to hurt their feelings, but, remember it’s not your responsibility to eat something just because they have made it. Practice saying “no thank you” to foods you do not want, when you are full, or when you simply want grandma’s cookies instead. Try to rehearse responses out loud that you are comfortable using and use some alternatives to like, ‘That looks delicious but I am full, I would love to take some for leftovers though’, ‘This was so delicious and I feel so well-fed, thank you!’, or the classic ‘no thank you’, even if you need to repeat it. 

Another not so lovely gift around the holidays is the uninvited comments on appearance. Even well-intentioned family members can make some inappropriate remarks, so how can we deal with them? Respect your body and set boundaries. Know how much you want to share about your life in general before a gathering and know what you want off limits. Do comments like ‘you look great, have you lost weight?’, ‘are you actually going to eat all that?’, ‘you should try my Keto diet’, you look so much healthier now’, ‘you’ve hardly touched your food’ sound familiar? Conversations like these can be uncomfortable and may feel easiest to ignore, but it is empowering to stand up for your body with healthy boundaries. Try to avoid defensive mode and instead approach the conversation by assuming they are unaware their comments are hurtful. Here are some examples of responses you could use!

  •  “I’m learning how to be more in tune with my bodies needs, I’d like if you didn’t comment on my eating.”
  • “Can we please make this holiday/the table a body talk/diet talk free zone?”
  • “I’m learning to appreciate my body as it is, please don’t comment on my weight.”
  • “I’ve started to focus on enjoying things that make me feel good, rather than on things I need to avoid, and I am so much happier! This is delicious.”
  • “When you make comments on my body or weight, it makes me feel…”
  • “I think you’re trying to help/be nice but your comments have the opposite effect.”
  • “My body is not up for discussion. Please do not comment about it.”
  • “Bodies are constantly changing. Please don’t compare what I looked like before”
  • “I will take care of my own health and body, please stop making comments about what I eat.”
  • “What does looking great have to do with weight loss? I’m happy- that’s why!”
  • “Yes, I listen to my body’s hunger signals.”
  • “Everyone has different metabolisms and genetics. Why do you think thin means healthy.”

Enjoy Movement 

Celebrate with joyful movement this holiday season. Get your family active during the day for a crisp hike together, go skating, sledding, or play games that you love. Alone time calling your name? Take a brisk walk on your own, do some yoga in the spare room, whatever makes YOU feel good!

Holiday Eating Strategies

I hope you have fun-filled holiday season! Remember, while food is a special part of the holidays, above all, this season is about connecting and celebrating traditions with those closest to you. Focus on being in the moment, having fun, and listening to and respecting your amazing body for all that it does. Bye for now!

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    Atheana Brown is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in disordered eating, body image, intuitive eating, and family nutrition. Her mission is to break the generational cycles of dieting and body shame.

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