December is here, the supermarkets are filled with festive food, and while Christmas plans may look a bit different this year, food guilt can be one festive regular that just won’t budge. The Christmas period can negatively impact our relationship with food. A 2019 YouGov survey found that a quarter of people felt Christmas made their mental health worse, and a quick Google finds countless articles on festive food guilt.
When foods are only available for a short period of the year, it can create a sense of urgency. How can you say no when that food will disappear come January? A lot of foods that we associate with Christmas can often be found year-round, or at least for a few months before December, even if we don’t habitually buy them beforehand. So, why not buy your first box of mince pies in November so that you can enjoy them at your leisure? By allowing seasonal treats to exist on the same level as normal foods, you’ll ease food FOMO.
Christmas dinner is one meal out of 365 days of eating, and the festive period only represents a small part of the year. Eating more than usual, or having less “healthy” foods will have relatively little impact on your overall diet. Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself without trying to make up for it later. Chances are, the amount of stress you’ll save yourself is more healthy than saving a few calories anyway!
If you spend the holidays with someone who pushes food onto you, or makes you feel bad for having less, you have a right to advocate for yourself. If you don’t want food, you don’t have to have it. Same goes for drinks and alcohol. You may need to say no more than once, and in different ways, but practice standing up for yourself. “I feel full” “I don’t want to feel sick” or “thanks, but maybe later” are examples of phrases to try. If someone has made a dish themselves, not having a portion right now doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate the effort they went to.
On the flip side, you might have to deal with people judging you for eating extra. You don’t need to justify that extra serving if you want it. However, you may find explaining that comments on how much you eat are not welcome may help to establish boundaries.
We all know comparison is the thief of joy. So do what you need to to remove yourself from it. This might mean deleting social media for a while, or muting the accounts that post triggering content for a while -yes, even if it is a friend. If the comparison happens in real life (or through Zoom if that is your set up this year) then this may take more practice. What other people do or eat has no bearing on what you do.
Need to talk to someone about food? Speak to your GP about services offered in your area, or book in for a consultation with myself.