How to Use Intuitive Eating Skills to Feel Calm(er) Around Food This Holiday Season

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I’m Sarah (she/her), a Toronto-based writer, anti-diet nutritionist, and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor. I teach folks how to have a healthy relationship with food and accept their natural body size.

Hi, I'm Sarah

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The holidays can be difficult for many of us for all kinds of reasons.

Aunt Mary’s diet-starts-tomorrow jokes.

Grandma’s comments about our own changing body.

Our challenging relationship with our parents.

The sister who’s obsessed with wellness culture and “clean eating.”

And then there’s the food.

If you have a history of feeling out-of-control around food during the holidays, stay tuned for some of my favourite tips for feeling calm(er) around food this year.

Tip #1: Be sure you eat enough and honour your hunger to the best of your ability. While it’s common practice to “save room” — restrict food — or skip meals — again, restrict food — in advance of a big dinner, consider how it might feel going into that meal if you’re absolutely ravenous rather than medium-hungry. How might being hangry impact your enjoyment and satisfaction?

Tip #2: Use this opportunity to really reject the diet mentality. Which foods do you feel like eating today? What do you naturally gravitate towards? Notice where your mind goes and the thoughts that arise. Do you feel you should eat certain foods — like the overcooked vegetables or the limp salad — simply because you’ve been told to eat your vegetables? Remember that there’s no wrong way to eat, and how you choose to fill your plate is your decision. Wanting to save more room for cookies and cheese is totally valid, as is wanting to sit down to a plate of turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Tip #3: Practice unconditional permission to eat. A lot of the “feel out of control” feelings that arise around the holidays are in response to chronic restriction and diet mentality. Although it can feel counter-intuitive, allowing yourself to eat more and relaxing the reins is the key to experiencing more calm around the cookie jar.

Tip #4: It’s okay to go slow. If we feel anxious around food, it makes sense that the pace of your eating follows suit. If you notice yourself eating quickly at the expense of being able to fully savour and enjoy your meal, try a grounding technique (you might need to add more blankets, a hot water bottle, etc) to support a sense of well-being.

Tip #5: Practice self-compassion. If you eat past fullness, which often happens when we’re around all kinds of delicious foods we don’t regularly get to eat, try to offer yourself self-compassion. What would it feel like to see yourself through soft eyes? What would it be like to offer kindness to yourself? If you notice your inner critic coming in hot, how would it feel to respond to it rather than react? If you begin to feel uncomfortable, what do you think you might need? Is there a way to get it?

What’s your favourite tip for navigating the holiday season?

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