December is the busiest time of the year. From festive-themed hangouts to work parties, Christmas is about spending time with your friends and family but the festive food and drinks are what the majority of people look forward to.
The centrepiece of Christmas Day is the Christmas lunch and the food doesn’t stop there. There’s leftovers, cheese boards, chocolate from your stockings and so much more, meaning overindulging and feeling uncomfortably full often comes hand in hand with the holidays.
Overindulging is common this time of the year, but the amount of food and drink being consumed is something that many people dread or worry about. Not only does overeating lead to feelings of fatigue and burnout, but it can be triggering for people who have issues surrounding food.
Christmas shouldn’t be a time for guilt or regret but instead should be about enjoying yourself with the people you’re with. To help you enjoy your Christmas meal guilt-free, we spoke to Karine Patel, dietician, nutritionist and founder of Dietician Fit & Co (opens in new tab). She gave us her 5 tips for eating mindfully at Christmas, so you enjoy your food and still feel healthy and full of energy after the festive period.
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1. Remember to eat breakfast
As Christmas Day lunch is quite a large affair, many people skip breakfast to ‘make room’ for all the festive trimmings. This is a big no as your body needs to have something to break the overnight fasting period. Having a bowl of cereal or toast for breakfast on Christmas Day helps kick start your digestion and provides essential nutrients to your body to help with energy and overall health. Not eating breakfast can also have an effect on your fullness levels when it comes to eating your festive lunch. When speaking to Patel, she said you should “never go to a Christmas party when you’re starving as you won’t be able to listen to your fullness cues. You’ll more than likely eat anything you see very quickly and overeat.”
2. Slow down
Regardless of what meal you’re eating, if you’re hungry and excited for your food, you’ll end up shovelling it in! A big trick with mindful eating is slowing down and being aware of what you’re consuming. According to Patel, “slowing down when eating makes your meal last longer and allows you to reflect on hunger and satiety to recognise when you’re satisfied or full. Keep in mind that it takes roughly 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to start sending signals of fullness.” So, take your time while eating your Christmas lunch so you’re fully enjoying it and not just stuffing yourself.
3. Listen to your body
With so much food available at Christmas, it’s easy to pick at things and overeat without paying attention. But, before you know it, you’re uncomfortably full and can't move off the sofa. Listening to your body is crucial and Patel’s advice for this is to not “force yourself to eat anything just because it’s in front of you. Before you eat something, ask yourself if it’s something you really like, and if you are still hungry. Try stopping when you are full and leave some space for pudding. On the other hand, if you aren’t full yet, it’s completely fine to indulge foods you love until you are. Just make sure to listen to what your stomach says.”
If you’re feeling particularly full and want to do some movement, check out how to beat the festive bloat with these yoga poses (opens in new tab).
4. Space out your alcohol consumption
Who doesn’t love a bucks fizz in the morning or a snowball at lunch? Alongside the food, alcohol is a big part of Christmas, and it’s important to enjoy what you’re drinking but keep everything in moderation. For example, alcohol can have an effect on how well you sleep at night and you don’t want to be feeling hungover the next day for the annual Boxing Day walk. “Try to space out alcohol and have a glass of water between each drink. This will help you stay hydrated and drink less overall. Alcohol can also increase appetite and cause false hunger so be sure to pause before each new drink,” suggests Patel.
5. Be gentle with yourself
Christmas is a time to celebrate and have fun with the people you love. While food is a big part of the holidays, it’s not worth stressing over or making yourself feel guilty because you’re eating more than you normally would. The biggest tip for everyone during Christmas time is to be gentle with yourself. Patel says that rather than hating yourself for overeating, “try to make conscious food choices most of the time, but don’t feel guilty if you overeat or fail to listen to your hunger or fullness cues. It’s all about balance!”
Always wondered why you nap a lot over Christmas? Here are 5 Christmas foods that help you sleep (opens in new tab).