Eat, Drink And Be Mindfully Merry This Festive Season

12 December 2018 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Filed Under: Holiday Eating

“Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.”
— WJ Tucker —

Are you feeling anxious about the Christmas holidays? Concerned about all the food and worried about how you are going to handle the abundance and variety of foods? Are you looking forward to spending time with family or are you dreading it?

The December and Christmas holidays can be a special time of the year filled with anticipation but so often, for many people, this time of year brings up feelings of longing, loss and sadness. Mindless consumerism, endless social obligations, frantic travelling and overcrowded holiday destinations can be very overwhelming and an additional source of stress.

“Gifts of time and love are sure the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”
— Peg Bracken —

As we enter the holiday period, it can be useful to reflect on what kind of holiday you would like this year…

Do you want to rest and relax? Or do you want to go out and experience new things, meet new people and have fun? Or would you like a combination of all of this? Having a clear picture of what you want and what you don’t want will help you navigate the holidays.

When it comes to food, how do you view the holidays?

Do you see this as a time to eat what you want because “you will start again” in January when you “get back on track” and  “get a grip” on your eating? Are you treating the holidays as a series of “last suppers” before January starts? Maybe this is the time to stop dieting and do things differently?

Perhaps at least consider not making any weight loss or “eating less” related goals for the New Year. Could you give yourself permission to eat what you want without the guilt? This is one of the core principles of Intuitive Eating and when practiced, ultimately leads to peace with food. Some people find this principle easy and others find it hard.

It sounds counter-intuitive and most people think that giving themselves permission to eat will look like one big binge.

For the most part, restriction, willpower, control and elimination of food groups leads to overeating and binge eating. If what you really want is pasta and you tell yourself to have the salad, you will probably land up eating more because you are feeling unsatisfied. I always say to my clients “you can never get enough of what you don’t really want”, so if it’s mince pies you want – allow yourself to have them and move on!

Buffet meals and the sheer abundance and variety of food can be triggering for many of us and these situations often lead to overeating and feelings of physical and emotional discomfort. It’s okay to overeat sometimes – it’s not the end of the world – you haven’t blown anything! A practical approach I suggest to my clients is to assess the buffet and all the options beforehand and tune in to what you really feel like eating. Choose what you really truly want, not what you think you should have! Instead of approaching the buffet with fear and trepidation, perhaps you could take a moment to give thanks to all involved for the blessing of all this food!

During the holidays we are normally so busy that we often neglect our basic needs. Can you try to recognise and honour your needs? Emotional overeating and binge eating so often is as a result of unmet needs.

This time of year can bring up pleasant and unpleasant emotions. You may feel happy and excited or sad and lonely – these are common emotional triggers to comfort eat. Emotional eating gets a bad wrap – it’s seen as a “weak” thing to do. I see emotional eating as a legitimate coping tool. If you do eat emotionally, don’t beat yourself up for eating to handle difficult emotions.  Give mindful emotional eating a try. Here are 52 alternative things you can do instead of eat. Or you could try pausing and asking yourself some questions when you feel triggered to overeat.

To identify your needs, as you go through your day, check in with yourself – ask yourself what do you need?

  • To drink
  • To eat
  • To sleep
  • To rest or alone time
  • To connect and be with others
  • To receive or give a hug
  • To be in nature
  • To move your body
  • To have fun and play

One of the pleasures and also the challenges at this time of year is that there are so many parties and functions in close succession. Practicing the “Power of the Pause” and checking in to how you are feeling physically and emotionally is a useful practice.

It’s inevitable that you will probably eat more than you need and that is okay but be mindful of those pesky thoughts that trigger all or nothing thinking.

  • It’s the holidays, Christmas only comes once a year
  • I will start again in January
  • Everyone else is eating
  • That’s enough, I shouldn’t , I mustn’t (this always leads to overeating!)
  • I / She / He made it – I must eat it
  • The food is there
  • I’ve blown it so I may as well carry on
  • What the hell, who cares

Every meal is an opportunity to practice, learn and start again. Learn from the previous meal and apply it to the next. We are aiming for progress NOT perfection. Small imperfect steps is the way to go!

Take it meal by meal; moment by moment and bite by bite.

“Let us wrap each gift we give with kind, loving thoughts about all those who have helped to make the gift possible and the person who will receive the gift.”
— Barbara Benson —

Spending time with family can be wonderful and connecting but for many of us, it can be a tricky and tense.

Remember no family is perfect – every family has some level of dysfunction. When spending time with family and friends expect, as Zorba The Greek says, the “full catastrophe” … laughter, joy, drama, tension – it’s all part of it. Practicing mindfulness in these situations helps ease the difficult moments. Mindfulness is paying attention to this moment, this experience with openness and curiosity and a willingness to be with whatever arises. How can you bring this attitude into family events? Be with the joy. In the same way, can you be with the difficult moments? Can you be with the boredom or perhaps longing of people who are not with you? Can you accept and allow the unpleasant and the pleasant emotions, knowing that both will pass?

Can you focus on the good and remember the intrinsic message of this season:

Peace, Love, Generosity and Kindness

This is a joyful holiday, bringing an “attitude of gratitude” to this time….for family and friends, for togetherness around the table, for community, tradition and religion and all the ties that bond us.

This Christmas and always

May you be happy and joyful
May you be peaceful
May you be healthy
May there be joy in your home


Are you tired of overeating and feeling out of control around food? Ready to end the war with your body?

I can help you find peace and freedom around food, eating and your body:


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