December and January. I’m certain it must be the diet industry’s favourite time of year. By the start of January we’re all convinced that we are awful people who ate waaaaaayyyy too much and didn’t exercise enough over the festive period. Maybe you will eat a lot and not exercise much. Maybe you’ll eat less and exercise more. Maybe there’ll be no change to your usual eating and exercise patterns. Either way, you’re not an awful person and you certainly don’t need to turn to the diet industry to ‘fix’ you.
If you’re in the southern hemisphere (as I am in Australia) we’re also bombarded by ‘get fit for summer’ and ‘bikini body’ advertisements. I highly encourage you to distance yourself from the media as much as you can. Even if you’re all for body positivity, as I am, constantly seeing these sorts of messages can start to put unwelcome thoughts in your head. Surround yourself with other body positive people, Facebook pages, website, books etc.
Eat mindfully by tuning into your hunger and satiety signals and savouring the foods you are eating. Think about what sorts of foods you are really in the mood for, and what foods will nourish your body and mind. Being mindful also means being in the present moment. Take time to enjoy your surroundings and the people who you are with. Food is certainly a bit part of holiday celebrations, but there’s also lots of other wonderful elements to be enjoyed.
Restricting your food intake because you know you have a party or event coming up is a great way to set yourself up to overeat. Continue to eat normally prior to the event and continue to eat intuitively after the event.
Eat the foods you enjoy.
There’s some foods that only exist around Christmas time – glazed hams, brandy custard (my favourite!), mince pies, pudding. If you enjoy these foods, give yourself unconditional permission to eat them when you truly feel like them. Eat them slowly and mindfully, as this maximises the flavour and enjoyment you receive from food helps you tune into your fullness and satiety signals. On the flip side, know that if you don’t actually want these foods, you don’t have to eat them just because they are ‘Christmas foods.’
Be active because it helps you feel good.
This might mean continuing on with your regular exercise routine, or you might find new ones to include physical activity in your day. A game of cricket with the family, a stroll along the beach at your holiday destination, chasing after the kids, or enjoying a special Christmas themed class at your gym. Reframe the way you view this exercise by thinking of it as a way to make yourself feel good or to spend time with others, rather than viewing it as nothing but a calorie burner. And remember – you are allowed to take a break from exercise too!
Take away the guilt.
Guilt is an awful emotion that rarely brings anything positive with it. Even if you do feel your behaviours haven’t been the healthiest, accept that it’s happened and move on. Try not to dwell on previous events. Guilt often us keeps stuck in a destructive frame of mind and that means continuing unhealthy behaviours. Being able to leave it all behind is difficult, yes, but it feels wonderful when you can.
Remember what the holidays are about.
Food has become such a huge part of social events that sometimes we forget that the holidays are about much more than what’s on our plates! Use social events as an opportunity to catch up with family members you haven’t seen in a while, open and laugh over Christmas presents, decorate the house, sing Christmas carols, and watch Christmas movies.
Be aware of what you think and what you say.
Our thoughts become our beliefs and our actions. Negative phrases such as ‘I shouldn’t eat that…’ or ‘I’ll have to go for a run after this…’ or ‘that will make me fat…’ only serve to encourage unhealthy relationships with food, exercise, and your body. Not only is it damaging for yourself, remember that other people (including children) are listening to what you say.
Know that not everyone will be as awesomely body positive as you.
Christmas get-togethers seem to bring out those family members who feel they have every right to comment on your body or to start telling you about their latest diet. That’s their issue, not yours. If you can’t completely distance yourself from the situation, aim to change the topic or present an assertive argument about body positivity and a non-dieting approach (or make a smart-arse comeback if you’re so inclined). Importantly, try not to let others insecurities impact on you. Go against the trend of post-Christmas crash dieting.
Have a support network.
If you find this time of year to be difficult, as those with disordered eating or eating disorders often do, set yourself up with a strong support network. This might be one or two people who you can talk to, call or text when you are feeling overwhelmed by a situation. On the other hand, if you know someone struggling remember to check in with them every now and then to see how they are going. A simple ‘how are you?’ and non-judgemental ear can help a lot more than people realise.
(I’ve written more about the holiday season and eating disorders here.)
Do you need to make a New Years Resolution?
This is probably one that people love or hate. I haven’t done a New Years resolution in years. There’s nothing magical about a new year. It doesn’t have powers to make us suddenly achieve our goals. If there’s something you want to change or work towards – why not start now? Life is meant to be lived in the present, not the future. That being said, there’s certainly nothing wrong with setting realistic goals for the new year and if a new years resolution works for you in a positive way, then go for it! And I love what Shelley from Body Positive Health and Fitness suggests – at the end of the year write down all the awesome things you’ve accomplished and experienced.
There are so many unhelpful messages out there telling you how ‘not to fall off the wagon’ this Christmas. My suggestion: don’t get on the wagon in the first place.