SAVOURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON, INTUITIVELY
OH CHRISTMAS! Ho Ho Ho…
I’m no bah humbug and don’t get me wrong, Christmas is a good excuse to let go and enjoy it for what it is - a celebration. I want to go a little deeper on dealing with special occasions in the hope of helping some of you navigate what can be a minefield. Honestly, for me, for a long time, Christmas, and all special occasions, were a sh*t show.
How did I deal with Xmas back then? Terribly. What was I doing that was making me feel so terrible? Well, I used to “save” myself for the festive period, aka starve myself, and then lose my sh*t and basically slam dunk into the food spread like a wild dog let off its leash. Not only would I not savour any of the food, yet alone digest it properly, but I would actually eat to the point of feeling sick. For me, this was a really dangerous place because of course it would bring up a lot of feelings I used to have when I was bulimic. Then the guilt would start. The inner critic would come out. You’re a failure. Look at you. Your stomach has ballooned. It’s going to take ages for you to exercise that off. I swear my brain used to hurt from all my neggy inner critic would say to me. It was an endless cycle.
Christmas was always a difficult time for me, the hardest in fact. I found being around a continuous stream of hors d'oeuvres, snacks and sugary treats, followed by an indulgent feast of more food than we would ever normally include in a dinner menu such a lonely place. It’s clear why overeating is so easy to do this time of year but what I’ve learnt is that with Intuitive Eating, I am able to listen to my body and it’s hunger cues so much more consciously and most importantly, I can respect myself, be kind to my body, and in turn, my mind!
Firstly, let me pose this to you. If you don’t feed your body when it is saying it is hungry, and the opposite is eating way over and beyond being full, what do you think this is saying to your body?
Well, the message is clear. It is saying, ‘I don’t hear you, I don’t respect you. I don’t love you.’ If you don’t honour your hunger when you’re hungry, it’s harder for you to know when you are full. We use something called a hunger scale in Intuitive Eating, which helps you connect with your hunger and fullness. I recommend trying to feel into your hunger in this way. 0 on the chart is ravenous hungry. Put it this way - you’d eat just about anything - maybe that means meat if you are mostly vegetarian or cake if you’re not a sweet tooth. At the opposite end of the scale is 10. You are so full that you think you might burst. Try and find a balanced spot between 3 and 7.
In its glory, Christmas is a time of abundance. Abundance is most definitely something to be grateful for, especially at this time of the year. As someone who absolutely loves wholesome, nutritious and delicious food, I’m all about giving thanks. I give thanks for the food in front of me, the kitchen I have to cook in and the people I surround myself with at meal times. I feel grateful and fulfilled, and very fortunate. These are good Christmas feelings. Food guilt is a horrible feeling to have any day, not just at Christmas, and it’s banished in my house. Can you banish it from your life too?
Christmas is a way to celebrate and bring people together. I have lost count of how many clients tell me that they ‘fall off the bandwagon’ or ‘gone off the rails’ over the holiday season. What train are you on? It sure isn’t a journey worth taking. This mentality to slipping out of a set of rules and feeling guilty tends to happen when we live in a dieting culture which views certain foods as good and bad.
I cannot say it more simply than this. No food in isolation is either good nor bad. Ok? Get that one out of your head immediately.
When we believe that certain foods should be off limits or ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ we tend to then restrict and deprive this food from our diet, and attach a stigma to it. This has been studied closely and typically results in these foods becoming even more desirable, consciously and subconsciously. When we finally ‘give in’ to these once forbidden foods, we have a tendency to overeat. Then the inner critic comes in and tells you how much of a disgrace you are and how guilty you should feel.
This use to follow with me then thinking, “I’ll be good for the New Year” and I would be; back to a regimented diet, full of restriction and rules. Then of course, another special occasion or social event would come and I’d face that same fear and cycle all over again. I felt this was my life on repeat when I had disordered eating. Does any of this resonate with you?
The truth is that food has no moral value and you are not a good person or a bad person based on what you eat. You are so much more than that! Food provides our bodies with nourishment and keeps us alive. We have taste buds because food is designed to bring us pleasure. Our bodies are born with the inner wisdom of intuition, which tells us what and how to eat. The intuitive eating approach to health focuses on you making peace with food and your body, throughout all seasons, all year round, during all social occasions where food is involved.
My intuitive eating and living philosophy encourages choices that truly honour your health and your taste buds and shift your mindset into a state of positivity around food and your body. My work is rooted in self-compassion and self-worth, and becoming connected with your body and your desires so that you can make intentional food choices that are not wrapped around a set of rules and as a result, feel truly satisfied.
If you want to move into the festive season feeling less like you are hopping on and off the diet trail rail, here’s some practical ways to step into your intuition.
WAKE UP WELL
Start the day well. Whatever ‘well’ means to you, it really does set you up for the rest of the day. Take a walk, do some stretching or yoga, have a morning meditation—start your day off with something for you and your body. Even if it’s just 5 minutes before the kids jump into your bed. We are creatures of comfort after all and even if unintentional, we crave structure. A small habit of waking up well will not only help you feel your best, but you’ll also be able to deal with the rest of the day, which might be completely out of your normal routine.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Think about how you want food to make you feel? Do you actually like the feeling of being stuffed to the brim? Probably not. Take less emphasis on the food itself, but rather how you feel in the situation amongst family and friends. Personally, I enjoy feeling satisfied and happy rather than totally full and in need of a siesta. Ask yourself where your hunger levels are before you start eating and continue to check in throughout the meal, this simple process can be the difference between the turkey-coma and a post-dinner family game or stroll outside.
SAVOUR YOUR FOOD
It may seem too easy, but paying closer attention to the pace at which you chew your food can make a huge impact on the total amount of food you consume. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that it is full. If you are eating too quickly, you’ll hit 10 on the hunger scale too late. Eating consciously also provides a foundation to really enjoy your food and savour it.
TRUST YOUR BODY
Our bodies are pretty good at self-moderating if we let them. Throughout the day, check in with yourself and assess your hunger and fullness. Are you showing up to meals ravenous and on an empty tank? This will often lead to the primal drive to overeat. Fuel your body throughout the day with a balance of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, protein, and fats. Give yourself permission to eat and stop when you hear and feel your body has had enough. Trust that your body knows exactly what it needs and when and honour that.
MAKE GRATITUDE YOUR ATTITUDE
The festive season is a time to sit back and appreciate all the goodness you have in your life; the year past, the laughter, the good and the bad. There is a learning in everything. Write a list of everything you are grateful for and then keep this consciousness when at the table. Where did your food come from? Who grew it? Who cooked it? Take a deep breath before your meal and give thanks to what you have. Without food, you can’t live. Your body is an incredible vessel. Be thankful.
ROOTED LOVE, PANDORA PALOMA X
If you’d like to know more about how I can support you on your journey to food freedom and start the New Year with a new mindset around food and your body, book in for a complimentary 15 minute 1:1 session here or join the next ROOTED 6 Week Intuitive Eating & Living programme here.