How to survive Xmas around food & body

Confession – I created this episode a few years ago and added to it. I wanted to bring it back to life as it is such a helpful resource for this time of year.

I literally love Christmas! I love all the Christmas lights everywhere, I love the way families come together I love the fact that people tend to be generally happier at this time of year.

I also remember like it was only yesterday, how I used to feel when I was in the midst of my dieting and binging days at this time of year. It brought a mixture of emotions ranging from excitement – because I knew that I was going to eat “all the food” – but also dread because I knew how much weight I would put on and how much “work” I would have to do in January in an attempt to lose the weight again. 

During my anorexia days, I just felt pure dread and zero excitement. Food was the biggest threat possible and I hated anyone who offered it to me.

My intention for this episode is to give you 10 “don’ts and do’s” around food and your body this Christmas so that you can enjoy this festive time without the underlying dread of January, without pressing the fuck it button, without “falling off the wagon” and so you’ll be able to welcome January having built a better relationship with food and your body…even during this festive time!

Let’s dig in…!

Don’ts and Dos’s

#1 Don’t fall off the wagon!

Number one is don’t fall off the wagon.

Here’s the thing… when there is any type of wagon to fall off this is not going to end well.

No matter how long you’ve “been on the wagon“ if you are “on the wagon“ you are inevitably going to fall off it at some point regardless of what time of year it is.

The only way to let go of the mindset of falling off the wagon is to change your thinking. Black-and-white thinking, all-or-nothing thinking is where the wagon comes from. Being on the wagon means in diet language “being good. Falling off the wagon means in diet language “being bad” or can sound like “why not, its Christmas, I’m allowed!”

Put in another way this is basically stating to have “no food rules” therefore if you have no food rules you cannot break any rules. I know this is super scary and also you may be thinking it’s super irresponsible and a bit of a crazy idea but if you’ve been following me for a while now you will know why this is such a key part of healing your relationship with food and your body. 

Allowance is key to stopping binge eating and to stop dieting and if you want to know more in-depth as to why the hell that would even work then please check out my previous content or just send me a DM and I’m happy to send you a voice note to explain. 

DO burn the fuc*ing wagon!

So… DON’T fall off the wagon but instead, DO burn the fuc*ing wagon!!!

As I previously stated there if there is no wagon to be on, you cannot fall off it! In other words, there are no rules around food, everything is allowed.

Yes, this is scary and you’re most likely thinking things such as:

“I can’t trust myself!”

“I’ll eat until I’m sick!”

“I need some kind of restraint otherwise I’ll completely let myself go” (that’s kind of the point, to let yourself be FREE!)

And I get it… I really do. But I also know that allowing yourself to live in full allowance and acceptance of your food (whatever time of year) is THE key to healing your relationship with food AND to not being on an emotional roller coaster with how you feel about yourself and your body.

I already have some homework for you… Your number one goal for this holiday season is to REALX around food and in your body as much as possible. Let your food and body be whatever they will be… because they’re going to be whatever they’re going to be either way! You may as well relax into it instead of trying to control it and feeling like a big fat failure.

#2 Don’t ignore your body

If you’ve been dieting for a long time you will most likely be disconnected from your body’s natural hunger cues and find it difficult to know when you’re hungry without relying on a meal plan to tell you when it’s ok to eat.

If you are a binge eater, you most likely will be disconnected from your body’s natural fullness queues and it is likely that you will keep eating past fullness and ignoring your body’s signals to ask you to stop eating. 

This is totally normal and the good news is that even though it may not feel like it now you can connect back to your body’s subtle cues. This leads me nicely into the Do…

If you’re currently in anorexia then I would reframe this for you to

#2 Eat regularly and eat a lot. Eat 3 square meals a day plus dessert plus 2 snacks. Self-care is essential here and self-care in this respect means to nourish yourself and your body and give it all it needs to thrive not just survive.

DO practice intuitive eating

Do practice intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating is all about connecting to your body’s hunger and fullness signals and honouring them to the best of your ability in each moment.

Intuitive eating is when you notice when you are hungry. You then check in with yourself to ask

“What is it that I would like to eat at this moment? What feels good to me emotionally and physically?”

and then you honour the answer from your body and go and eat that thing – or as close to that thing as your environment allows – and then you stop eating when you feel as though you have had enough.

This does take practice but you will be very surprised how in tune you can be with your body after years of ignoring her. Eating intuitively is natural to you. Believe it or not, you were born an intuitive eater.

So all you have to do is get quiet enough to listen to your body and also have an abundant mindset around food when making food choices, meaning you affirm that “all food is allowed.”

You CAN trust your body to tell you what to eat and how much, your body is THE wisest creation in this universe. Your body keeps you alive every second since the day you were born, YOU CAN TRUST HER!

I’d also like to add here that you don’t have to wait until you’re physically hungry in order to eat. It’s ok to want a mince pie (English Xmas pie thing!) just because you want to!

#3 Don’t eat less before the big meal

Attempting to bank your calories or save your hunger or basically eat as little food as possible until you have your Christmas dinner or Christmas buffet or whatever it is on that day, is not going to help no matter how much your logical brain tries to convince you otherwise.

When we deny ourselves food, even though we know we’re going to eat a lot later, our biology still responds the same way to any type of restriction. Your hunger hormones will rise and so when you do come to eat, you will eat way more than what you actually needed or wanted because you’re starving and your body will be driving you to eat. It will be in a state of “need to get it all in now and fast” because it has been restricted all day.

It’s also not a great way to be present with loved ones when all you care about is the breadbasket being delivered to your table or if all you can think is:

“Shut up auntie Janice, I’m not interested in what you’ve got to say unless you’re bringing me my starter!”

Do not cut back on your food beforehand! Yes, you’ll want to be hungry to fully enjoy your meal of course, but there’s a difference between eating as little as possible to being mindful of the amount of food you eat close to the big meal.

DO eat like you normally would!

You still need to eat whether it’s Christmas day morning or not! You still need to eat lunch, even though you’re eating a big dinner later! Feed yourself like you usually would and trust that you’re going to be hungry (just like you normally are) in time for the big meal.

#4 Don’t over-exercise before in an attempt to burn off extra calories

This is similar to under-eating before the big meal but in terms of your body and movement. Over-exercising in an attempt to burn off calories so that you can “earn” them later is never a good idea and actually isn’t even a smart idea! Your body gets hungrier the more calories it burns so your appetite will be bigger than if you hadn’t exercised, meaning you’ll eat more anyway… your body is pretty smart.

DO move your body in a way that feels good

Instead, move your body in a way that feels good to you. Move your body as you normally would on a normal typical day. Don’t change it just because today is the day when you may eat more food than you usually do.

Just to remind you, your body is super smart and if you eat more than you usually do during a big meal in the evening, your body will use it for fuel to give you more energy or/and you’ll naturally be less hungry the next day etc… it always, always comes down to trusting your body and listening to her signals.

#5 Don’t allow others to food police you OR force-feed you

Depending on your relative’s own relationship with food they may project their own beliefs and insecurities onto you.

You may get some members of your family asking you things like “should you really be having another? or haven’t you already had enough?” 

Or you may get some members of your family literally trying to force-feed you saying things like “you can’t leave that little bit, finish it! why don’t you have dessert, it is Christmas after all! or go on it’s Christmas you’ll be dieting in January so you may as well have it now!”

Don’t allow them to pressure you into not eating enough of what you want or eating too much of what you don’t want. Choose YOU and honour your own desires and needs over making anyone else feel happy or not uncomfortable.

DO set boundaries and listen to your body

Instead, set boundaries with others and listen to your body. I will sound like a broken record but I’m going to say it again… Your body always knows best! So you can set boundaries with other people by saying things like “thank you for your concern but I do actually want some more. Or Thank you for your offering but I’m actually full and I don’t want anymore.”

It can be uncomfortable to set boundaries but not as uncomfortable as ignoring yourself and feeling anger inside because you’ve done something you didn’t want to do in order to please someone else. Plus nobody else is living in your body. You get to decide.

#6 Don’t NOT eat veg just because you’re in “Fu*k it” mode

This brings back the whole black-and-white thinking and “falling off the wagon” analogy. Just because you’re eating foods that you perhaps might not usually eat, it doesn’t make sense to just not eat vegetables!

My finance actually does this, it’s so funny to notice! When it’s a holiday – either a day or an actual week or so long holiday – he’ll NOT eat vegetables and salad because he says they’re “too healthy and he’s in holiday mode!” I mean… that doesn’t make any sense (even though I totally get it because I’ve been there!)

DO include nourishment-dense foods and variety WITH your meal IF it feels good 

This isn’t to say that you have to eat vegetables or salad… this is just giving yourself the choice if it feels good to you and if physical nourishment is important to you.

If you were eating intuitively on a normal day, you would be offering yourself fruits and vegetables as part of nourishing yourself physically. Again, if health is important to you as it doesn’t have to be… so why would Christmas dinner be any different?

I also get that the standard English Christmas dinner does contain a lot of vegetables anyway, but I think this is key to bring up. Let’s say you were going to a buffet or a party or any kind of festive occasion where the standard Xmas dinner wasn’t being served… denying ourselves physical nourishment just because we’re eating more foods that we wouldn’t usually be eating on a typical day is not self-loving.

#7 Don’t participate in body shame talk

When you are having a conversation and someone starts talking about how fat they are or how much they need to lose weight or even maybe talking about somebody else’s body negatively, don’t engage in that conversation.

DO change the convo or share that it triggers you

Instead, change the conversation or openly share that this kind of body shaming talk actually triggers you so you would appreciate it if they could change the subject. The most important thing to remember here is to not make the other person wrong. It’s safe to say that the whole world is brainwashed by diet culture unless they are consciously doing work around fatphobia and food freedom.

#8 Don’t eat less the next day

Number eight which is similar to number three is don’t eat less the next day.

Just because you have eaten a big meal or you may have eaten past fullness the day before for Christmas day, for example, it doesn’t mean that you automatically have to eat less food the next day.

DO eat leftovers and eat when you’re hungry

Instead, eat leftovers and eat when you feel hungry. You may notice that naturally, you don’t feel as hungry the next day if you’ve eaten more than you usually do the day before but if you do feel hungry then absolutely eat. If you restrict the next day in an attempt to try and compensate for what you ate it will never end well and actually perpetuates the diet binge cycle. So listen to your body when you feel hungry and trust that your body knows what and how much to eat.

#9 Don’t exercise just because you think you should

Number nine is don’t exercise just because you think you should. Again this is similar to number four which was not to over-exercise beforehand in an attempt to “earn” your food.

Exercising just because you think you should after what you ate the day before is going against your body and is just reaffirming that you need to earn your food or work off your food and that is just not true.

DO exercise if it feels good

Instead, do exercise if this feels good to you and your body. If you wake up and feel like going on a run will help you feel physically and emotionally better then absolutely do that. If you wake up and feel that honestly, the best way that you could take care of yourself would be to snuggle up on the sofa and put Christmas movies on all day then absolutely do that too.

The key here again is to listen to your body and do what feels right for you at the moment regardless of what you did or didn’t eat the day before…

#10 What to say if someone comments on your weight

If someone comments on your weight either positively or negatively you don’t have to stay quiet if you don’t want to. Even if someone is “trying to be nice” by saying how great you look for losing weight or whatever, that’s still contributing to our stigmatic society in a way because it’s basically saying…

“You look good and that’s important.”

In an ideal world where looks aren’t important enough to talk about all the time, it would be a pointless thing to say. So let’s start creating that ideal world by being the change we want to see!

You could respond with something like the following:

“Thank you for your intended compliment but I’m working on not paying too much attention to the size of my body.”

If someone comments about your body in a negative way you could say something like:

“With all due respect, my body is none of your business and I would appreciate it if you didn’t comment about it.”

or

“I’m going to assume that you don’t know how harmful your comment is and so I’ll politely ignore you.”

You could also just walk out of the room and give yourself some space. A toilet is a great place to sit down and take a moment. You could say you need some air and go on a little walk to get some space.

Either way, remind yourself that they’re only projecting their own insecurities onto you. It’s not about your body, it’s their own shit.

If someone talks about someone else’s weight such as; “Can you believe how much weight Sandra’s put on?” you can completely disengage and not answer or respond with:

“Oh, I don’t take much notice, I think she looks great at whatever size.”

“It doesn’t matter to me if she has put on weight, why should it matter?”

“I see people’s value beyond their weight.”

#11 Don’t beat yourself up for not getting it right

The previous 10 points will absolutely help you on your journey to food and body freedom and will help you to navigate the festive period. But if you are new to this work and this way of living it will feel very alien to you and you won’t get it right.

In fact, in the world of food freedom, there is nothing to get right or wrong as everything is an exploration. So just allow yourself to fumble through these 11 points and be okay with where you’re at.

Regardless of whether you feel that you have got it right or not, just practising and being aware of these 11 steps will absolutely strengthen the relationship you have with your body and will help you to feel more normal around food so again don’t beat yourself up for not getting it right… it really is all trial and error.

DO give yourself compassion

Do give yourself compassion. Tons of it. And then some more.

No change ever comes from a place of shame even though you intellectually think you can force yourself into being better around food and in your body.

So get curious with yourself, grab your journal if that feels good to you and just explore how following these 11 points went for you. What you liked what you didn’t like, what felt comfortable what felt uncomfortable. What you feel you need to work on and get curious to see what your blocks are around stepping into food and body freedom. (most likely they will be about the fear of weight gain)

You can also turn any guilt that you have into gratitude.

I’m sure that you’re very familiar with guilt, especially if you’re currently in the diet binge cycle…? I get it cause I’ve been there but you can allow your guilt to be recycled into gratitude.

If you’re sat feeling guilty for eating too much food or whatever it is your inner bitch is saying to you, can you flip that and be grateful for the time you spent with your loved ones? Can you be grateful for all the food that you do you have access to when so many people haven’t? Can you be grateful that you are reading this right now so you can get support with this?

Bottom line is, this kind of work takes time so give yourself a break and reach out for help. I got you!

And remember, choose self-care over self-control and self-kindness over self-flagellation.

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