6 tips for mindful eating at Christmas

Holidays can be stressful when you're out of your normal eating routine and so many activities revolve around food. Jeanette Lamb provides some tips for eating more mindfully this Christmas.

After a tough year, the Christmas festivities may find us eating and drinking more than normal. 

Here are 6 tips for mindful eating over the Christmas period, from changing the way you think about indulging during the holidays, to savouring the moment you tuck into your festive treats.

1. Beware of the scarcity mindset

Foods that appear for what seems like a ‘limited’ time can really hook into our brains. Mince pies and other festive treats won’t be here forever, so we feel pressure to have them all right now.

However, in reality we live with an abundance of good food available, and most of these ‘limited’ foods are actually available for a large part of the year.

The scarcity mindset makes us feel we must eat it if it’s there. See if you can approach the weekend with an abundance mindset and notice the difference it can make.

2. Give yourself permission to eat

We can create our own scarcity mindset if we go into the holidays thinking ‘I shouldn’t eat x,y or z’. Then, when we eat ‘x’, we can find ourselves overeating it, feeling guilty and then going around the whole cycle again.

Allow yourself to eat the foods you love – see what’s available and pause before you dive in to check what it is you really want. Don’t just be led by your eyes or mouth, which can take over when there's a variety of food around. What about the rest of you? What’s going to make you feel most satisfied?

3. Slow it down

Whether it’s eating at a party or Christmas dinner with the family, try to slow down the whole eating process.

Aim to engage all of your senses and don’t take the next bite until you’ve finished the one in your mouth. This gives our bodies an opportunity to recognise when we are starting to feel full and the choice to stop before we feel uncomfortable.

4. Remove distractions when possible

Indulging in festive treats while you watch TV or a Christmas movie is pretty common. However, we all know how easy it is to find that our food has magically vanished before we know it.

Where possible, try and get the most out of these foods by eating them free of distractions and really concentrating on how they taste. Not only do we tend to eat less this way, more importantly we also get to truly savour the food, helping us feel more satisfied.

If you can’t remove the distractions, try and portion out the food before you start eating it, so you don’t accidently eat more than planned.

5. Watch out for all-or-nothing thinking

If you've been making changes recently to live a healthier lifestyle, it can be common to feel anxious about celebrations ‘ruining’ all your hard work. People may be tempted to skip meals if they know they are potentially eating more later, or plan to ‘detox’ the following week.

Try to avoid these patterns of thinking and over-restricting, and remember that holiday eating is a small part of our overall food intake. If you skip meals during the day, arriving at an event hungry makes it much harder to feel in control. And if you do find you overeat at a meal, try not to let this lead to further overeating later on.

6. It’s not all about the food

While food traditions and connections around food are such an important part of our lives, they aren’t the only things that can bring us joy over Christmas. Food and drink can be an easy option, but there is more to celebrating together on at holidays than just the food.

Consider how else you can treat and look after yourself over the festive period. Enjoy the time off and make the most of spending quality time with your loved ones.

Last updated Wednesday 21 December 2022

First published on Monday 11 April 2022