How on earth are we already here in 2023?! Thanksgiving week is on the horizon and in just a few short weeks we’ll be chatting about Christmas traditions and plans.
One of my favorite parts of this season? Food. Hands down, it’s the food for me.
I was reflecting the other day about how Thanksgiving in particular is still a very pure holiday. We can chat all day about how Christmas is getting over-commercialized and how the “reason for the season” gets overshadowed by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, end-of-year bonuses, and much more.
For the most part, Thanksgiving still gets the respect it deserves. It is still very much a pure holiday. At least in my corner of the world, it’s still a holiday that is very much about gratitude, family, and food.
Whether your Thanksgiving be big or small, I’d still venture to say that you’ll at least spend some time basking in gratitude – at least I’d encourage you to do so 😉
The huge presence of food at and around the holidays can be enough to trigger anyone into overindulgence. Not to mention any added familial stress that can sometimes accompany family gatherings.
It is possible to eat intuitively during the holidays. As someone who has finally made peace with food, and someone who helps other individuals make peace with food, I’m here to tell you that all the food doesn’t have to be a trigger for you.
I’m here to tell you that intuitive eating is one of the highest forms of self-care around the holidays – you get to enjoy what you enjoy, you get to practice being kind to yourself and listening to your body, and you get to rewrite those thoughts on repeat when it comes to food in real time.
Below you’ll find my top tips for practicing intuitive eating around the holidays. If you’re wanting more information on what intuitive eating is and what it looks like, I wrote a blog post about it a while back.
Start by taking care of your mental and emotional needs. We’ve all heard the notion that it’s difficult to pour from an empty cup…yet how many of us are running on fumes these days? As you head into the end of your year, I want to encourage you to take what you need. Fill your cup first and take showing up for you as seriously as you take showing up for others.
Tune into your hunger cues.
Before eating, check in with your body to determine your level of hunger. This is one of the first things intuitive eaters get familiar with – awakening the mind to one’s hunger cues. Before meals, take a moment to check in with yourself – how am I feeling? On a scale of 1-10 how hungry am I?
While plating your food, aim for variety, color, and foods that will bless your body.
Avoid skipping meals.
Skipping meals or “saving up” can lead to overeating and trigger the binge spiral. Reject the “bank” mentality of saving up calories to make room for more. “Saving up” those calories can lead to a binge spiral – plain and simple, you don’t have to save up or earn your food.
While we’re on this subject, let’s also reject the “earn your dinner” mentality. I personally love a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, but it’s part of my family tradition – not just a way for me to overindulge later in the day. Bottom line: move because you want to, because it celebrates what your body can do, and because you can. More on joyful movement later.
Practice mindful eating.
Be present with your meal and avoid eating with distractions. Savoring every bite and letting yourself slow down at meal times can be incredibly satiating and helps you practice mindfulness at the table. Speaking of tables, be sure to plate your food and sit down to enjoy your meal.
Give yourself permission to enjoy.
Allow yourself to enjoy the foods that you genuinely enjoy without restriction and guilt. Know that the holidays and these large gatherings with food are anomalies in your nutritional routine and that you can enjoy what you enjoy without feeling guilt and shame – give yourself that permission 😉
Drop the labels.
One of my favorite things to talk to my clients about is the concept that food does not have “morals.” Meaning that food is not inherently “good” or “bad.” Food is food, and it’s the labels we often put on a type of food that sets society norms and cliches.
Food is fuel, you do not have to earn your food.
Listen to your body.
Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel: mentally, physically, and emotionally. While I’m not a strict food tracker and I don’t necessarily ask my clients to log every meal (unless that practice fits within their goals), I am an advocate for tracking how food makes you feel. Do you get lethargic after that high-sugar treat? Do you still feel those hunger cues after a salad? Be mindful of how certain foods and meals make you feel.
Move with joy.
Seek movement that brings you joy and is energy-giving. How can you incorporate joyful movement into your holidays? Some of my favorite ways to include movement into the busyness of the holidays are walks with the family, inviting my family or company to my favorite workout class, or playing with my kids at the park. If you’re in a “5K Holiday Family” – go for it (I’m 100% there with you)!
Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger cues, be sure to keep up your water intake. This can be a challenge if you’re traveling and out of your routine, cart that water bottle around and set a goal for how many refills you’d need to stay hydrated.
If you know you’ll be out of your routine, plan ahead with snacks and quick go-to’s things you can travel with. Some of my favorites include almond packs, chomp sticks, yogurt and fruit, GoMacro bars, and dried fruits or fruit snacks.
Be kind to yourself.
Remember that this is your journey. It’s normal to have highs and lows in any journey – be gentle with yourself. As I mentioned earlier, the holidays are a time for gathering and enjoying yourself. Be realistic, be mindful, and above all be gentle with yourself.
There is no greater time to begin to awaken your intuitive eater than around the holidays. Food is ever present and you deserve to be able to enjoy the things that bring you joy without fear of overeating, without the shame attached to indulgence, and without the guilt attached to shear thought of enjoying your favorite dishes and desserts.