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Navigating the festive period in a non-diet way

Navigating the festive period in a non-diet way

The festive period is often a time for holidays, gift giving, quality time with loved ones and of course, sharing delicious food.

But for many, the focus on food can bring up feelings of fear and guilt, which is not helped by our media feeds and unhelpful comments or conversations from family and friends.

It can be especially difficult when you are just starting or working through building a more positive relationship with food and body, so we’ve put together this blog in hope of helping guide you.

Maintain a regular meal routine

It is not uncommon for some to fall into the mindset of restricting their food or ‘saving room’ in the lead up to an event. Doing so, often backfires. When we restrict our food, we are more likely to eat past the point of uncomfortable fullness or eat in a way that feels chaotic when we eventually do allow ourselves to eat. This can negatively impact on your enjoyment of the meal and the day/event itself.

Instead, fight the urge to restrict your intake and try to nourish your body adequately and consistently throughout the day with regular meals and snacks.

Give yourself unconditional permission to eat, and enjoy, all foods!

Similar to restricting how much we eat, when we deprive ourselves from eating the foods we enjoy, we are more likely to eat past the point of uncomfortable fullness or eat in a way that feels chaotic when we eventually do allow ourselves to eat the thing we enjoy. Food rules can also increase feelings of anxiety and stress toward food and eating.

Rather than ignoring your cravings, try to honour your cravings and allow yourself to eat what you crave. Take the time to really enjoy them, without the side of guilt. The holiday season only happens once a year and is a time to fully experience the joy of food and quality time with friends and family!

Something to note is that it is very normal and perfectly ok to feel extra full after a Christmas event (or any time really). It’s also very normal to eat when you aren’t feeling particularly hungry. Often the feeling of fullness or eating in the absence of hunger can kickstart the guilt, restriction and food rules. Try to practice self-compassion and resist the urge to restrict or skip meals after an event. You are allowed and encouraged to eat regularly and enough in the days following Christmas or other holiday events, even if you have eaten more than you normally would on the day.

Navigating diet-talk with friends and family

Time with friends and family isn’t always joyful. If you anticipate that you will be around family or friends that are known to make unhelpful comments, it can be helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve to be able to dodge those pesky comments or unhelpful conversations.

This could look like changing the topic, politely advising that you would rather not discuss that particular topic or even physically removing yourself from the situation.

Understandably this can be tricky, if you would like some further tips on managing this, please see our blog post on how to respond to comments about food or your body here.

Find the joy in other parts of the festive period

Since food does take up such a big part of festive celebrations, it’s easy to let it become the main focus. Focusing on some of the other exciting aspects can help to reduce the pressure and stress you may feel about food and eating. Other things to look forward to may look like playing games with friends and family, making homemade gifts, watching cheesy Christmas movies or taking time to have some great conversations to catch up on the year that was. There are many ways to spread joy and excitement over the holiday period!

Prioritise self-care and self-compassion

Whilst this time of year is often seen as exciting and fun, it can also bring up feelings of stress and anxiety. Try to schedule in some time to yourself, even if it’s a couple of minutes in the morning or at night to practice self-care. We have some ideas on ways to incorporate self-care in your day here.

If this is a time that brings up heightened feelings of stress, uncertainty or worry, it can be helpful to reach out to a trusted health care practitioner (e.g. therapist, counsellor, non-diet dietitian or GP) to help build strategies ahead of time for the holiday season.

And remember, you are exactly where you are meant to be in your journey. You are doing the very best you can in what can be a very challenging time of year. Look after yourself and reach out for support from those around you or a trusted health practitioner if this is something that would be helpful to you.

We wish you a happy holiday and a joyful new year. 

If you require any assistance or support over the holiday break, we have linked some services and supports below:

Butterfly Foundation 1800 33 4673

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia 1300 789 978

Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36

Headspace 1800 650 890


Written by Karly Rugolo, Accredited Practising Dietitian.

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