Joyful Eating in the Holidays: enjoy the foods and festivities with peace and joy!

5 December 2017 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Filed Under: Holiday Eating

This is the time of year when we start to feel stressed and anxious about all the year-end parties, entertaining and going away on holiday. Many of us are worried about overeating, family pressures and obligations.

Let’s examine some of the common triggers to overeat during the holidays and some suggestions on how to overcome them.

1. The anticipation of the events and holidays

Stay in the present as much as you can. Perhaps this year it’s time to do things differently and put the worry and drama aside? This is a time of reflection and a time for connection. Think about the meaning of this time and create an intention. What would you like to get out of the holidays? Is it to connect with family and friends in a meaningful way? Is it to connect spiritually? Is it to rest and relax or could it be to get through this time with grace and ease? Whatever it is, decide ahead of time and try not to create drama around the days ahead. Be very clear about what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do and as best you can, stick to your intention. When you notice yourself going into drama, gently go into grace.

2. Entertaining: what to cook, preparation, anxiety around entertaining, having enough food, worrying what people will think, wanting to impress your guests.

It is about the food but it’s also NOT about the food. I can almost assure you that no guest will leave hungry! Give yourself enough time to prepare and delegate, delegate, delegate! If people offer help, say YES! Most people are just so relieved that they are invited and don’t need to do all the hard work, we are way more critical of ourselves than our guests are! Make the preparation as fun as possible! Be there for YOU! Don’t let yourself get ravenously hungry – sit down and eat – don’t mindlessly eat as you cook and don’t neglect yourself as you prepare for the lunches or dinners. Self-care is very important – a quick lie down, meditation, prayer, whatever works for you! There is no such thing as perfection – our peace and freedom lies in the acceptance of imperfection.

3. The sheer abundance of food and variety of dishes and special holiday foods can be triggering to overeat.

Firstly, aren’t we blessed to have all this food and choice? Give thanks to the people who prepared the food, the animals who gave up their lives, the farmers, anyone who was involved in the food on the table.

Secondly, if you are on a diet – stop right now! They don’t work – more about this here.

Give up the rules and diet mentality.  Let go of thinking of foods as forbidden. This never works and only leads to overeating or binge eating.

Give yourself permission to eat what you want.  Please read more about this here – yes I know it’s scary but it works.

Let me use an example – you go out for dinner and what you really feel like is the pasta but diet mentality tells you “don’t eat carbs at night”; “carbs make us fat” yadda yadda yadda…so you want to be “good” and you eat the grilled chicken with a side salad, the result is you are so dissatisfied that you end up binge eating later!

I always tell my clients you can never have enough of what YOU DON’T WANT. Give yourself what you want.

4. Specific holiday-type foods available only at this time of the year.

Eat them!

Enjoy them!

Savour them!

Do not try to eliminate these foods or say you will resist them because chances are you will land up overeating these foods.

Allow yourself to have these foods. Be selective and discerning.  If there are things you can find easily (chocolate, nougat, etc.) rather choose the foods that are more unusual or more difficult to find. You can always go buy the other foods next week but the homemade honey cake made by Aunty Milly may be harder to come by!

If the dishes you have selected don’t taste good – leave them.

Love what you eat, eat what you love!

Diet mentality says “save the best for last”, I say eat your favourite foods first! If you will fill up on salad, vegetables and chicken and eat your favourite foods last, chances are you will feel overfull and uncomfortable. If the only thing you want to eat is mince pies, Panetonne or Christmas cake, then eat that and enjoy it.

5. Abundantly Beautiful Buffet Meals at hotels and events

Buffets are triggering because of eye hunger – know that ahead of time. Survey the scene – look at what is available. Tune into what you really feel like eating. What looks interesting, delicious or different? Try those dishes! Choose what you want, not what you think you should have! Remember you can always go back for more! Treat the buffet like a tasting menu if you want to try lots of different things.

When it’s time to eat, apply some practical mindful eating tools.

  • When eating, just eat.
  • Whatever you choose to eat, put it on a plate and eat it sitting down.
  • Eat slowly, chew your food and eat with your full attention and awareness to savour the full experience.
  • Remember to put your knife and fork down in between bites and to sloooow down!
  • Bring your attention and awareness to your food as much as you possibly can (yes, this is more difficult in a social setting).
  • Remember the power of the pause in-between bites.
  • Taste and smell the food.
  • Tune into your levels of fullness.
  • Stop when you have had enough.

6. Fear of Missing Out

The reason we fear missing out on food is because we want to taste everything! Choose what you truly want and have it without guilt and with enjoyment. Have small bites and tastes of everything you would like and when you are no longer enjoying it, stop eating it. Apply the practical mindful eating tools in point 5 as best you can.

The reality is that you will probably miss out on something. Perhaps accept that there is a lot that you want (with food and in life) and that you will miss out on some things and that it’s okay. Can you notice your urge to eat out of fear of missing out and be gentle with yourself?

Remember you have a choice. You can eat everything and lots of it and not miss out on anything on the buffet table.

How are you going to feel after that? Chances are you will feel stuffed and uncomfortable. So you are missing out on feeling good in your body. Or you can choose to miss out on some food and feel better in your body afterwards.  There is no right or wrong – it’s a choice: how you would like to feel at the end of the meal.

7. So many meals in close succession

Ask yourself how do you want to feel at the end of each meal? While you are eating, practice the POWER OF THE PAUSE and check in on your levels of fullness. As best you can, stop eating at a comfortable point. A point where you are satisfied on all levels – physical and emotional. You could even say to yourself: “I have had enough. My meal has now ended. May I let go of the food in peace.”

It is inevitable that you will probably eat more than you need during this time. It’s a break in our normal routine and it’s unrealistic to expect that you will stick to your normal routine. It’s OKAY. Let it be!

8. Overeating to please the host

There are many ways to show appreciation to your host other than by overeating. Express thanks and gratitude. Acknowledge all the hard work and preparation it must have taken. Compliment the host, ask for the recipe, offer to help. A simple “No thanks” or “No, thank you, really” or “I couldn’t possibly eat more of this delicious food. I will feel so uncomfortable it will spoil my meal.” is also enough. Or you can say “I would love to take some home to try when I am not so full…”

9. Dealing with food pushers

Read this!

The basics are:

  • Delay the eating
  • Distract the food pusher
  • Decide if you are going to eat or not
  • Determine what and how much

10. Everyone’s eating.

Other people eating can be very triggering to eat more than we need, we eat to connect and join in and be part of the group. If you have eaten enough and find yourself eating because everyone else is, take the focus off the food. Notice your urge to eat because other people are and decide: are you joining or not? If you choose not to eat – what are you going to do instead? Watch them eat (without FOMO), offer to help, join in the conversation without eating?

11. All the sweet treats

Read points 1, 3 and 5. Always give yourself choice! Don’t go into it saying to yourself “I won’t eat dessert” or “I am not going to eat sugar or flour”. You are setting yourself up for failure! Rather remember: moderation, not elimination. The truth is, eating too much sugar doesn’t feel good in our bodies and eating sugar is not about being “good”, it’s about feeling good in our bodies. Eat and enjoy and when you have had enough, stop eating at the “sweet spot” of enough.

12. Family, Friends and Feelings – The Full Catastrophe!

Remember no family is perfect. Most families have a level of dysfunction. Let go of the fantasy of “how it should be” and try to allow it to be “as it is”. Not everyone will behave or show up as you would like. Pain, conflict, drama, joy, happiness, it is all part of it. The drama and the joy will pass. When presented with a difficult emotion or situation – know that it will pass. Practice the “Power of the Pause” – pause before eating or reacting. As best you can, focus on the good in the moment. Bring yourself back to gratitude.


13. Sadness and loss

This is a time of year when we think about friends and loved ones who are no longer with us and we may want to numb those feelings with alcohol or food. Acknowledge the feelings of pain and loss. Accept that it is hard. Can you allow it to be hard and at the same time treat yourself with compassion, gentleness and care? It’s not easy.

14. All or nothing thinking

Be mindful of your thoughts…

  • I’ve blown it so what’s the point?
  • That’s enough
  • I shouldn’t; I mustn’t
  • Everyone else is eating
  • I have overeaten so I may as well carry on
  • Who cares!
  • What the hell!
  • I will start again tomorrow, next week, in January.

15. Body Dissatisfaction and Body Comparison

Our relationship with food is closely linked to how we feel about our bodies. When we don’t like our bodies and we try to change them, it creates dysfunction with food. Can you accept the body you have for this festive season? No matter its size, its weight, its level of pain, its limitations. It may be difficult to love your body but can you try to accept it as it is now?

16. Judgement

Judgement of yourself, judgement of family, judgement of food … all of these judgements can lead to overeating. Can you replace judgement with acceptance or even better,  compassion? Notice when your critical voice gets judgemental and gently replace the thought with something kinder – this isn’t easy but it feels so much better.

Remember …..

Take it bite by bite
Take it meal by meal
Take it day by day

May these holidays ….

Be restoring
Be filled with sweet and joyful memories
Be healthy, safe and at peace

If you need more tips and strategies for the holiday season, read my blogs – “How to Survive the Holidays” and “Merry and Mindful Holiday Eating“.


Are you ready to end the struggle with food and explore Mindful and Intuitive Eating? Do you want to feel free and at peace around food, eating and your body? Book a free Mindful Eating Introductory Session with me or sign up for my email series – 30 Days of Mindful Eating Moments.

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