It’s nearly Christmas.
Christmas stress and weight gain is on so many people’s minds. It’s statistically one of the most stressful times of the year, with overwhelming pressure for making a handful of days the most special, magical, and perfect times, filled with the perfect menus, drinks, and gifts.
Guess what? Let’s call bull on that one.
I want you to take a moment right now to think back over the past year. Grab a piece of paper and write down three special, magical, perfect moments that have happened to you in the past year. What made them special? Magical? Perfect?
I’m willing to bet all the chocolate I received for my birthday that it wasn’t things that made them special, magical, or perfect, but the people you were with or who were involved in those moments.
Am I right? Yup, I know I am.
I’m also willing to bet that it wasn’t food that featured highest in those moments, but connections. And yet, for many of you, the stress you may be feeling right now is associated with what to eat, what to serve, and what to buy for others.
Now, don’t get me wrong: if you follow me on social media in any way, you will know that food features heavily in my world, because it’s amazing. But it’s not food that makes Christmas amazing.
It’s the connections around that table of food.
So, I’m going to share my five top tips for making this Christmas your most beautiful, stress-free one yet (relating to food, at least).
You see, I can’t take away your worries over getting loved ones the perfect gifts, or whether the oven breaks on Christmas Eve (I’ve been there; it was hilarious!), but I can help you to clear away those anxieties creeping in about overeating, overindulgence, and weight gain.
Know the facts about winter weight
Did you know that your body will naturally gain a small amount of weight over the winter?
This is biological, harking back to the days of lack, when food was naturally less available over the winter months. To give you the greatest chance of survival, your body would begin to store more energy in preparation, as the days became shorter and temperatures dropped.
We needed more energy to stay warm and protect our brains and hearts, and so, despite now having central heating and an abundance of food available, our body will still work to the rhythms of the seasons to some extent.
It is completely natural to gain around seven pounds over winter, but you are likely to gain a little more when we add in the abundance of food and alcohol available at this time of year, and a reduction in exercise because of those dark evenings.
So please, make a decision to choose to not weigh yourself over this period. (If you want extra brownie points from me, give yourself an early crimbo pressie and throw the scales away for good!)
Because not only are you likely to gain a little regardless, those numbers actually mean very little in real terms of your health or fitness anyway.
Switch to an abundance mindset
The table will be packed with all the food. All the food. And you can feel your trousers getting tighter just looking at it all.
Anxiety and guilt start to creep in. You find yourself mentally counting the sins, the calories, the points.
You’ve dropped in restrictive mindset. Did you know this mindset is proven to encourage overeating?
I’m asking you to try something new this year. Pause.
Take a breath and simply pause to look at that table of food and ask your body what it wants to eat.
>> Choose to notice how amazing it is that you get to choose from this abundance of food.
>> See where your eyes are drawn. What at the table gets your taste buds singing?
>> Choose to notice that you get to eat these foods whenever you want.
>> Choose to notice the time and energy that went into providing these foods.
>> Choose a space of gratitude for it all.
>> You get to try a little of everything—or get to eat a plate of just that one thing you want.
How amazing is that? And, if you don’t choose a particular food, you know you can always choose to have that another day. Because you live in a world where you get that choice. If you don’t fancy it today, you can just go to the shops or bake something another day.
But I ask that this be the most important thought in your mind: “What from this abundance of choice do I want to eat right now?”
And then eat that. No “shoulds,” no sins, no calories. Simply abundance of choice and realising that you operate from a space of abundance, not restriction or lack.
You’ll be amazed how much of a game-changer this one can be.
Slow down and savour
Once you have chosen what you want to eat, make a conscious choice to actually enjoy it. Own your choices and sit in a space of joy in the flavour, the textures, the smell, and the taste of your chosen foods.
Look at your plate of food, think about how it all got there, its journey to your plate. Look at the colours. Immerse your senses in this luxury world of amazing foods. Look, smell, touch, taste, hear.
Take a small bite and see how many different flavours you can taste. What are the textures? You chose this food, and you deserve to spend a moment to actually experience it.
Slow down. Let time stop. Enjoy it.
Because when you do, you will find you are satisfied and satiated, happy and content.
You will naturally eat less, enjoy what you do eat, and not find yourself needing to reach for seconds and thirds and fourths—and remember, in that abundance mindset, you know you can always choose to have more later anyway.
Listen to your body
One of the biggest problems around this season is failure to listen to hunger and full cues. Skipping breakfast to save room for that big lunch. Overeating and then feeling uncomfortable and sore. Haywire blood sugars that swing you around into highs and lows that mess with your mood and leave you hangry or feeling sick.
This year, choose to stick to hearing what your body wants and then providing that. Eat regularly, don’t skip meals, and adopt the simplicity of eating slowly with an abundance mindset to keep hanger at bay and guilt cycles from building.
Recognise that you don’t need to finish all the food on your plate.
Try this sentence: “What I’ve eaten I’ve enjoyed, and it’s fine to stop now.”
Lastly, adopt a stance of loving-kindness around food this season. Recognise that food is not what makes an event special. Instead, it’s often simply the centerpiece over which we connect.
It’s important. Food is fuel for your body and it’s also a joy to eat. It’s a joy to provide nourishment for your body and mind.
Choose to be kind to yourself with what you choose to provide for you.
Recognise that when you are kind to yourself, you are less likely to punish yourself for eating foods that feel forbidden.
There is no forbidden food. You can choose to eat it all. It’s all available to you. And you can consciously enjoy every mouthful. Because actually, when we are feeling guilt and shame over foods, we eat them quickly, without tasting them, without any connection to the body—and thus we don’t feel satisfaction from them anyway (leading to eating more of it).
Love yourself in every moment this season. Love the extra weight that the majority of people gain. Love yourself for the food you get to enjoy. Love yourself for the respect you pay to your body. Love yourself for recognising the damaging thought processes that lead to more stress.
Love that you get to cook for loved ones, or be cooked for.
And most of all?
Be conscious, be present, be mindful of what Christmas is really all about.
I hope you have an amazing Christmas and New Year, my friends.