Worried about holiday eating? Intuitive Eating during the holidays can help you make more memories and enjoy the food instead of fearing. it.
When it comes to food, the biggest challenge that comes up around the holiday season is the fear of eating “too much” indulgent food and gaining weight. That can also manifest as fear of eating too much “unhealthy” food at holiday gatherings.
Regardless of which one you relate to more, the root of this fear is grounded in diet culture, which perpetuates the fear of being in a larger body and the belief that thin bodies are more worthy.
We don’t need to buy into all of that this year. This year will be different!
- Feel the urge to restrict certain foods leading up to or after holiday meals
- Want to overexercise after or leading up to holiday events to “burn off” what you’ve eaten
- Feel guilty about what you enjoy at holiday meals
- Fear getting comments from others about your food or your body at holiday gatherings
- Worry about how “healthy” the holiday meals are and falling off the wagon
Then these tips for Intuitive Eating during the holidays are for you!
What These Tips Intuitive Eating During The Holiays Will Help You With
Instead of being preoccupied with food and feeling fear, guilt or shame during holiday meals, these intuitive eating tips will help you be in the moment and ENJOY what you’re eating.
I want you to be able to cook with your loved ones and not think twice about how much butter or sugar is going into a recipe.
And when it comes to before and after the holidays, these intuitive eating tips will help you avoid the binge and restrict cycle, which contributes to weight cycling.
Over the years, you’re not going to remember the food you didn’t eat or how “good” you were at holiday meals. Hopefully, you’ll create memories and participate in traditions that bring meaning to your life, without worrying about calories or what’s in the actual food.
Let’s get to it!
The Fear Of Overeating
Holiday gatherings are all about the food, and it’s the norm to eat a lot – probably more than you’d normally eat. And it’s normal to fear eating “too much,” especially in a culture that’s rife with fatphobia.
It’s important to consider the question – what is overeating?
Over what eating?
Who gets to define what’s “too much” when it comes to the amount of food YOU consume? It’s certainly not me or anyone else!
Eating past the point where you’re comfortably full isn’t always the most pleasant feeling, but the feeling passes. Your body figures it out. You’ve eaten large quantities of food before, and it’s all been ok!
This is the mantra I repeat to myself when I feel like I’m uncomfortably full or super bloated: “My body will figure it out.”
And that means I don’t have to take dramatic action to counterbalance the amount of food I’ve eaten, and nor do you.
It’s normal to want to address the fear of overeating by eating less leading up to the holidays, overexercising or restricting after-holiday meals.
But this year can be different! This year, go into holiday gatherings with compassion for yourself and trust that your body can handle a few meals where you eat more than you do every day.
And remember, no matter how much you eat at any given meal, your body still needs food the next day.
An Intuitive Eating principle to learn more about for this one would be Challenge The Food Police.
You’re Worried You Won’t Be Able To Stop Eating
I can remember many Thanksgivings where I’m standing in my mom’s kitchen, helping prepare the meal while grazing for hours on cheese and crackers BEFORE even sitting down to dinner. Eating for hours doesn’t feel great, I agree, But let’s pause for a sec. It’s impossible to never stop eating.
What this fear stems from is the fear of not being able to tell when you’re actually full during a meal. I totally relate!
Before I dive in here, I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with eating past fullness. There’s nothing wrong with eating a lot of food. And I get that sometimes, it doesn’t feel great physically to go through that process.
But if you’d like to avoid that discomfort, here’s an easy exercise that can help you reconnect with your hunger cues. I recommend trying this out before you get to holiday meals. This is absolutely not a tip for eating less by the way, it’s for connecting with your body during meals.
How to eat mindfully
Try eating a meal with no distractions. No phone, TV, podcasts, books etc. Try this alone, too. Just you and your food.
While eating, pay attention to the sensations. What are you tasting? What are the textures like? Do you enjoy them? What don’t you enjoy? How is your body feeling while you eat? Can you feel yourself getting full or not?
Doing this a few times a week can really help with getting in tune with your body’s cues AND help you hone in on what kinds of foods and meals you enjoy!
I do not recommend doing this for more than 4-5 meals per week in a short time frame (don’t do this every week of your life), as it can get depressing and lonely.
If this is your holiday food struggle, read more about the Intuitive Eating principle, Feel Your Fullness, here.
Feelng Out Of Control Around Food
This is a big one. Do you feel out of control around food during the holidays? I know the feeling well!
Feeling out of control around food — like you can’t stop thinking about certain foods when they’re in the near vicinity — is a result of restricting foods.
Don’t you find that you feel out of control around foods you know you’re not “supposed” to have? Or foods you believe are bad for you?
It’s because you’re restricting them.
When we give ourselves full permission to eat all foods, we no longer feel out of control around them. Restricting foods gives them control over us. Permission puts us in control.
What does permission to eat all foods look like?
I promise that it doesn’t look like endlessly munching on tons of indulgent foods around the clock. You might eat a lot of the foods you restricted at first, but it calms down over time as you build trust with yourself that these foods are always available.
Permission makes once-restricted foods less sexy. For example, do you ever crave carrots? Do you ever feel out of control around broccoli? Probably not. Because these foods are “healthy” and you know you’re “allowed” to eat them anytime. The same thing can happen for indulgent foods, especially holiday foods, like pumpkin pie and green bean casserole.
While this part of Intuitive Eating takes a while to learn and internalize, start now! Learn more about the Intuitive Eating principle, Make Peace With Food, here.
Finding “Balance” During The Holidays
So during the holidays, there are more opportunities to enjoy indulgent foods. Of course, this doesn’t mean throwing nutrition out the window. With Intuitive Eating, we can really get away from the “all or nothing” mentality around food, which makes finding that balance between fun foods and functional foods easy.
In the diet mentality, you’re either “good” or “bad.” Even “eating in moderation” can go sideways when we feel we’re eating fun foods outside of whatever moderation looks like. Then, we throw all caution to the wind and that’s when the binge starts.
The key to finding balance with food during the holidays is embracing fun foods and working them into what we’re eating more often so we don’t feel out of control around them.
There are different kinds of satisfaction, and it’s important to not deprive ourselves of highly satiable foods (sweet foods, super savory foods etc). The more we try to restrict, the harder balance gets. I know it’s counterintuitive, but can’t you relate to that experience?
Don’t forget that holiday meals only make up a handful of meals throughout the year. There are still many opportunities to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods around holiday meals.
And you can always make food choices, even during holiday meals, with the way you want to feel physically, mentally and emotionally in mind.
For example, if you know you don’t feel great when you have a lot of wine (that’s me!) you can choose to not partake even if others are drinking. Same goes for eating foods that don’t make you feel your best. On the other hand, sometimes it’s totally fine to eat foods regardless – even if you know they won’t make you feel good. You’re in control either way.
When in doubt, ask yourself this question: do I want X food? Am I in the mood for this?
Intuitive Eating isn’t just about eating whatever you want. If you struggle with figuring this part out, a good principle to learn more about is Gentle Nutrition.
Fielding Comments About Food And Your Body
This is a big one! When I asked folks what Intuitive Eating tips they need, this came up a ton. The holiday season comes with many opportunities to be around friends and family (and food) you may not see that often. Diet culture-y comments fly across the table as you just sit and try to enjoy your favorite pecan pie.
Whether you’re fielding comments about your body, what’s on your plate or your aunt Kathy just won’t shut up about her new diet or weight loss results, here’s what to do.
Comments about your body/others’ bodies
If someone makes a comment about your body that you don’t appreciate, and you have a solid relationship with them, it’s totally worth pulling them aside and saying hey, I’m working on my relationship with food/body image right now and would prefer to not hear comments about my body.
If you don’t have a good relationship with them, a good option is to simply not respond or just change the subject. Making someone feel a little awkward is a good way to shut down those types of comments, without actually saying something to them.
Comments about what’s on your plate
A simple way to respond is, “my plate, by business,” or “keep your eyes on your own plate!” Then change the subject or maybe compliment the cook.
Again if you feel comfortable, this could be a good opportunity to set a boundary (“I don’t appreciate comments about what I’m eating because I’m working on my relationship with food”) and have a discussion about why these comments arent helpful. This really depends on who you’re with though.
And as always, ignoring the comment and changing the subject is a good way to direct the attention elsewhere (and not on your plate).
Comments about dieting and weight loss at holiday meals
I’m sure you’re starting to notice a theme here, but the easiest way to navigate situations where someone just keeps talking about weight loss or a diet is to just change the subject.
If you feel comfortable with that person, let them know about your intuitive eating journey and set that boundary.
We can’t control the actions of other people, but we can let them know what boundaries we have and ask that they respect them. Some people won’t get it, but most will!
Stress Eating During The Holidays
Do you reach for food when you feel stressed out? You’re not alone! This is totally normal and not something to worry about it.
The truth is, stressing out about stress eating adds more stress to our lives. Instead, try to embrace it and consider other ways to manage stress in addition to eating.
Eating is meant to be comforting to us. So it’s okay to turn to food. Remember that it’s not black and white. You can eat during times of stress AND do other activities that help you manage stress.
Other stress management tools could include walking, exercise, journaling, talking to a friend, and more.
How To Approach Food After The Holidays
Feel like you “overdid it” during the holiday season, you might feel the urge to restrict or exercise a ton. I get it! But that only leads to more binge eating later (as you probably have experienced at this point). Instead of focusing on short-term unsustainable habits, let’s try just eating “normally” post-holidays, whatever that looks like for you.
Like I said earlier, your body will figure it out!
It’s also worth noting that meal prep can be a great way to accommodate “normal” eating without having to think much about it every day! Learn more about our easy, realistic weekly meal plan and recipe membership here. We’re the only meal plan service that fully aligns with Intuitive Eating.
Which of these Intuitive Eating tips helped you the most? Share below!