Once again, Christmas has come around so quickly and I can’t believe it’s now less than a week away! I feel like everyone’s been saying this but seriously, where has this year gone!? I wasn’t planning on writing something like this so soon after my recent body confidence post but I’ve had a surprising number of messages recently from eating disorder sufferers or those in recovery – even more so than usual, so I thought I’d quickly write something up before the festive period really kicks in for me (though I have been eating festive treats since before December..!).
I guess this is the time of year when people who struggle with their relationship with food feel additional stress and worry from all of the amazing Christmas treats out there. I just don’t have time to reply to them all but I really do want to help people have a healthier mindset and a better relationship with food, so rather than even try to reply to them all individually, I wanted to collate my thoughts in one post. Ultimately when it comes to Christmas I think that everyone’s number one priority should be on enjoying good food and good company with the people that they love, and absolutely nothing should come in the way of that! I’m often still baffled when people come to me for advice – I don’t have any qualifications in fitness/nutrition/anything of the kind but I do believe in a balance and keeping things simple.
To me a balance is as much mental as it is physical, so whilst the foods that I eat over Christmas may not be at all “balanced” (though I do love plenty of veg with my roast dinners 😀 ), I see it as a time for me to fully rest, relax and enjoy myself, i.e the mental side of the balance. Here are some of the most important things I feel that I want to share:
- Kick yourself everytime you feel the need to “work off” your food. Seriously. I’ve heard people say “I’ll have to go to the gym to work off all these mince pies.” Yes, I’m lucky enough to have the kind of friends who say such things in jest, but I know people who genuinely do feel that way. I can’t imagine anything more joyless than eating food whilst thinking about the exercise you need to burn off said food.
- Take time off. Have a break from the gym, running or your weekly workout routine whatever it may be. Even my fiancé who is a full time athlete takes plenty of time off to rest and relax and Christmas. A week or two off is not going to harm or affect your progress, and your body will probably be thankful for the rest! Plus it gives you more time to spend with family and friends – do you really want to spend your precious Christmas holiday slogging it out at the gym!?
- Allow yourself treats. It’s bloody Christmas for goodness sake – if there ever was a time to treat yourself, it’s now. Everyone’s drunk, everyone’s stuffing their faces – no one could care less if you gained a pound or five (not that they care at any other time of the year either). And don’t let your fear of the unknown stop you from embracing social activities! Go and order whatever the hell you want at Christmas meals, get drunk with friends, eat too many nutella crepes at the Christmas markets. The chances are that once you just let yourself eat the food you want to, you’ll stop fixating on it and thinking about it constantly. Fight those negative, irrational thoughts!
- Which leads me onto my next point. “I’ve done a work out class, so I “deserve” this cake. You don’t need to work out to justify eating less nutritious foods. You do not EARN food. You NEED food. Yes, perhaps not always food of the high fat, high sugar, high everything variety, but you still need food, and it’s Christmas, so who cares if that food is a huge slice of chocolate cake rather than a miserable kale salad.
- Don’t compare yourself to others!! I’m always open and honest about the fact that I DO fall into the comparison trap, even though I know it’s both ridiculous and pointless. I know what works for me; I’m aware of and I appreciate my huge appetite. But sometimes when I’m on my 10th mince pie or I’ve polished off an entire layer of milk tray and I see someone posting their “treat” of a few segments of chocolate orange or a slither of cake it does make me feel a bit greedy. I’m lucky to have my boyfriend who has an appetite even bigger than mine to put everything into perspective – yes there will always be people who eat less than me and whose “treat” is something I eat everyday without even noticing, but there will be plenty of people who eat more too – don’t blindly focus on only comparing yourself to certain people and don’t forget that social media (and what people post on social media!) is a tiny, tiny proportion of what goes on in the world! Comparisons can be made in absolutely every area of your life – job, friends, food, money, exercise, but the truth is absolutely nothing positive can come from it – you are you, so be the best version of you.
Finally.. RELAX!! I know it’s easier said than done, and it’s so easy for me to say without having been through an eating disorder myself. But weight gain is not an irreversible process. So what if you gain a few pounds over the Christmas period!? Everyone overeats at Christmas but once you get back into your normal “routine” you’ll be back to how you were before without even having to try. I don’t ever weigh myself (I don’t even have a working set of scales!), but despite having a fast metabolism I have no doubt that I must gain SOME weight with the amount that I overeat at Christmas. But in just a two week period I’ve never gained a noticeable amount of weight, and I assume that I just lose it naturally again over time. More importantly though, your weight does not define you. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it a million more times. Your weight doesn’t define who you are, what you stand for or your self worth as a person.
One of the strange things I’m often asked is don’t I worry that I can’t stop eating!? Well YES! It may seem like I’ve got my own perfect balance but the truth is I’m human just like everyone else! There are plenty of days when I over eat, there are plenty days when I go to bed so full that I can’t sleep for the discomfort and there are days that I eat so much sugar that I actually feel sick! Yes, it’s rubbish and I feel stupid for doing it but I enjoyed the food at the time and every day is a chance for a fresh start. I wake up the next morning and guess what!? Surprisingly I haven’t developed some terrible illness overnight, nor have I suddenly become overweight or unhealthy! Every change (for better or for worse) happens slowly. You don’t start a diet and expect to be 5kg lighter and have dropped two dress sizes overnight do you!? Well it works the same the other way!
I didn’t want this post to come across as a rant, and I really do sympathise with those who struggle at this time of year as I’m sure it’s hard, but much as I wish I could help each and every person who comes to me for advice, ultimately only you can help yourself. If you’ve struggled for a while then make a change and don’t let this be another “wasted” Christmas, worrying and stressing about things which don’t matter – enjoy the food and embrace the bloat! 🙂