managing food guilt over christmas
  • December 12, 2022

How to manage food guilt over Christmas (BONUS EPISODE)

In this bonus episode we will be chatting about managing food guilt over Christmas and the festive season as this […]

In this bonus episode we will be chatting about managing food guilt over Christmas and the festive season as this can bring a lot of anxiety for many.



Why can Christmas be challenging?

Traditionally, Christmas revolves a lot around food and anytime we are presented with more (or different) foods and pressure to eat this can bring anxiety.

There are also often a lot more events such as Christmas parties, and catching up with friends and family. So, for those with disordered eating, being at events such as these which reduces your control around food can be quite difficult.

On top of this, you often may see people you haven’t seen in a while and anxiety surround changes in your body can come up. For instance, people commenting on weight gain or loss.

Christmas can also be a very draining time both socially and/or physically for many which can be a big trigger for emotional eating. On the other side, Christmas can be a time where feelings of loss, sadness and loneliness can come up which can also be challenging.


Dealing with food guilt

This may be feeling like you have eaten too much or a food you don’t usually ‘allow’ yourself. BUT it is important to remember that food is much more than nutrients alone – it is also there for social, cultural and enjoyment reasons. It is okay to eat food because you love it an enjoy eating it. Eating past fullness occasionally just because you love the taste of a certain food is also valid. Remember that finding yourself in a food coma every so often is part of the food experience.


We encourage trying to take an all foods fit approach:

  • This means allowing yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods.
  • This also means still maintaining a regular eating pattern and not skipping meals to try and compensate for eating more or differently at other meals.
  • Regular eating will also help with preventing the onset of binge-restrict eating cycles.


There can also be a lot of pressure to eat everything that is given to you, but it is more than ok just to pick the things you like to most and/or only eat to comfortable fullness as well. If know you won’t feel good afterward (and we mean from a body comfort perspective NOT food guilt), it is ok not to eat that food.

If you find Christmas brings up a lot of anxiety for you, we recommend discussing this with someone you trust whether that be your dietitian or psychologist or even just a close friend or family member who you know will be supportive.



Navigating difficult conversations with friends and family members

There are a few different ways you can go about this depending on the situation.

  1. Re-direct the conversation to a new topic. For example, if some makes a comment demonising carbs you might just say a comment such as “personally, I love carbs” then move on.
  2. If it is a bit more of a serious topic such as someone commenting on your body size or weight, you can say “I would appreciate if you didn’t comment on…” however this can be a daunting conversation for some, so it is also ok to just redirect as above.
  3. You can even just walk away and not engage in the conversation.
  4. If you feel up it, you can maybe question what they’ve said. For example, if someone makes a comment about celery juice being great for x y or z reason, ask them why that is or where did they get that information from.



Challenging food fears

If you are feeling up to facing some food fears – then great. Christmas brings a great opportunity to challenge many common food fears.

Some tips if you are going to do some food challenges:

  1. Don’t try to challenge too many all at once as this can be overwhelming
  2. Pick someone you trust to help support you through these
  3. Come up with some coping strategies to deal with any difficult emotions that come up – e.g., breathing exercise, gentle walking, journaling
  4. Maybe don’t challenge for the first time at Christmas dinner – instead do it a bit before Christmas when you can do it in less of a stressful situation
  5. The more times you challenge a food and start to develop positive experiences with it, the easier it gets to overcome these food fears


But remember, it is also ok if you don’t feel ready yet to try some food challenges at Christmas.

This can even just be a good time to start to notice and write down any food fears or rules that come up for you.



Navigating alcohol

This can be a pretty big topic that probably deserves a whole podcast to itself. Alcohol is a tricky one as technically it is a toxin and not a health promoting beverage. However, it is fun promoting and can be a big and enjoyable part of celebrations.


What feels good for you in regard to drinking alcohol is unique to you. It will be different for everyone. We recommend starting with the government’s recommendations of:

  • No more than 10 standard drinks in a week and
  • No more than 4 standard drinks in one drinking occasion


Alcohol can influence us in a variety of different ways whether that be heightening our emotions or changing our decision making as well as changing our appetite.


If you are someone who don’t wish to drink for whatever reason, maybe you know personally you don’t feel good after it or you have a negative relationship with drinking, often it can be challenging when other people are pressuring you to drink. Luckily, there are lots of alcohol-free wines, beers, ciders, and spirits available now. No one has to even know you are drinking alcohol-free varieties. But we definitely need to normalise not drinking in society.




How to approach balance when it come to eating at Christmas

Disclaimer: You definitely don’t need to eat this way!

1: Try using the plate method

  • Divide your plate into thirds:
    • 1/3 fruit and/or vegetables
    • 1/3 carbohydrates e.g. potato, bread, pastry, pasta, grains
    • 1/3 protein foods e.g. tofu, legumes, fish and seafoods, meat, eggs
  • Then add a sprinkle of fats on top such as olives, nuts, seeds avocado, oil-based dressings, sauces, dips
  • This is a great way to build satisfying meal that we leave you feeling good and give you the energy to get through the day


2: Maintain a regular eating pattern

  • 3 meals + 2-3 snacks
  • This is important for appetite regulation


3: If you know there will be limited balanced food choices – bring a plate of food to share such as plant-based protein dish or salads and other vegetable sides



Have a very Merry Festive Season and a Happy New Year and we will be back next year with a new season of the podcast!


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