Approaching Christmas eating with less stress

The 2020 festive season probably looks a little different for most of us this year. There might be less (or no) Christmas parties, more social distancing and a greater appreciation for our health.

A common cause of stress I see at this time of year is the conflict between festive eating and dieting. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, then December is synonymous with Bikini Body Diets just as much as with Christmas pudding. Even if you’re not trying to lose kilos for summer, New Year’s resolutions tempt us to try for a “new you” requiring yet another new diet. As a result, I see lots of women oscillating between restricting festive foods or deciding that they’ve blown it and overeating their way through to January 1st.

So how do you approach Christmas eating with less stress? Here are my top tips to reduce eating anxiety and enjoy this time of year (and the celebratory foods that go with it!) more.

 Resist the temptation to diet.

Instead of trying to follow a rigid diet plan, allow yourself to choose from all the lovely festive foods that are a part of the season.

Eat to your hunger and satisfaction.

It’s common advice to either starve before a party so you can “eat whatever you want” or to eat something beforehand so you aren’t hungry when faced with finger foods.

Both of these options imply that you can’t trust yourself when around food and that’s not true. Instead, eat normally throughout the day, choose foods you really enjoy, eat them if you’re hungry and respond to your body’s signs that you’ve had enough.

Know that you can have more food tomorrow.

It can be tempting to overeat party foods when you’re threatening yourself with a strict diet the next day. Reassure yourself that you don’t have to eat all the fruit mince pies tonight as you can always have more tomorrow.

Acknowledge that festive food is fun.

And you may eat past your fullness on Christmas Day because food is more than fuel. Food is tradition, celebratory, pleasurable, FUN and a way of deepening our connections with loved ones. Strong social connection is a strong predictor of healthy longevity – bonus!

Ignore the actions of those around you.

If someone is bemoaning their second serve of ham or pushing more dessert on you when you’re stuffed, say merry Christmas and move on!

Our Mindology contributor Kate Spina is a holistic nutritionist, award-winning chef, eating disorder survivor focussed on intuitive eating, mental health nutrition and gut health. 

References (for social connection improving healthy longevity)

George E. Vaillant; Charles C. McArthur; and Arlie Bock, 2010, "Grant Study of Adult Development, 1938-2000", Harvard Dataverse.

 Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2011. The happiness effect. 89(4), pp.246-247.