Tips For Controlling Your Eating Over Christmas. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Dr Bunmi Aboaba. Dr Bunmi Aboaba, a leading authority on food addiction, is passionate about helping people to fight the uphill battle with food cravings that the food industry doesn’t want us to win.
Her own journey has been one of self-discovery. Burnt out in 2008 after working in the medical profession, she beat her addiction to alcohol only to replace it with a compulsion for food, especially sugar. She is a leading authority on food addiction, specialising in helping people to achieve a healthy relationship with food. Here she gives some guidance on how not to overindulge this festive season.
Tips For Controlling Your Eating Over Christmas
With Christmas advertising for the big day feast in full swing, it’s time to consider how we will approach the season. A few techniques and strategies can help prevent us from overeating this yuletide, and the positive spin-off from a bit of restraint now will leave us more robust and more favourable for the rest of the year.
Think back to the last festive season. Did you spend January desperately trying to shed the pounds? Remember the deprivation and the starvation? Remember the disappointment of jumping on and off those scales and the feeling of hopelessness as the weight refused to budge?
Ask yourself if you want to go through that again? If the answer is a resounding NO, then adopting a more holistic approach to what you buy and what you can be the gamechanger this year will help you avoid that never-ending cycle of diets, poor body image, and low self-worth long after the party is over.
Don’t Buy More Than You Need
All those adverts on TV and in magazines draw us into the idea of the ‘perfect Christmas and what the ‘perfect Christmas dinner will look like. These are the foods people love. It enforces the image of the ‘perfect life.’ According to advertisers, the best Christmas can only be achieved with an abundance of high calorific, sweet, sticky food. Don’t be swayed, and in the light of the current HGV crisis, which could affect supplies to shops, we also need to think about the next family that need to shop. It’s the best reason not to stockpile this year.
Pause. Take A Breath
Before you reach for something, ask yourself:
Is this life-enhancing?
Is it nutritious?
What am I going to enjoy about eating this?
Learn to train your impulsive brain by pausing between your first and second thought. You might think, ‘I want that chocolate mousse,’ but if your second thought is ‘I know I won’t be able to stop if I start, then take a moment to breathe and observe your body. Have a slight pause. Consider the relationship you have with that food. Usually, that’s all it takes to swerve a temptation. A slight delay slows down the impulse part of the brain.
Don’t Keep Trigger Foods Within Eyesight
Work out what you love, whether it’s the texture, creaminess or crunchiness. You know your triggers. Fructose combined with fats and carbohydrates is the most explosive. Acknowledge your weaknesses. When you know what sets off your desire to eat, ideally, don’t have it in the house. However, it’s Christmas, and even if you don’t cave into buying things you know you shouldn’t, someone may buy them for you. If you do fall foul of temptation, adopt the out of sight, out of mind mantra. Keep them out of your eye line and not piled up on the kitchen worktop, where you will be tempted to reach out on impulse.
Most people have a strong psychological connection with food that often starts in childhood and can be positive and negative. Sugar is an expected reward. When I beat alcohol addiction, I found myself eating biscuits and a tub of ice cream every night until I quickly realised that I had just replaced one addiction with another. With addiction comes denial, and it’s hard to stop if you love the intoxicant so much. I suffered massive withdrawal symptoms when I detoxed from sugar, including brain fog, night sweats, and mood swings. Be aware that anything ultra-processed and with additives will enhance dopamine, the neurotransmitter that creates pleasure in the brain, and that’s when the rewards system goes into overdrive. To be safe, give those foods a wide berth.
Go for a walk after Christmas lunch rather than slumping on the sofa eating chocolates. Try to replace food and maybe some mealtimes with non-food hobbies and positive strategies such as meditation. We still have caveman brains programmed to chase and hunt down things to eat. It’s the feast or famine mentality, so we need distractions. Keep a gratitude journal. Overeating can be triggered by emotions, especially when we are feeling sad. Making a list of the good things in your life will keep your spirits high.
Seek out friends who will support you. Peer pressure and boredom require resilience. Stay away from the things that you know you find hard to resist. Team up with someone who knows your situation and will support you. Send a friend who knows what you like if you don’t trust yourself not to pile up your plate at the buffet. You won’t end up with more than you need, and you are unlikely to then get up for more.
Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Drink plenty of water. Reaching for a glass of water every time you think you are hungry will help you differentiate between hunger and thirst.
Get Plenty Of Sleep And Fresh Air
Whether it’s a lovely walk in the park or a bubble bath, self-care can help to change your relationship with food. When you feel good about yourself, you care about what you put in your body.
Give Yourself Permission To Have One Or Two Treats And Then Stop
Tell yourself you will have one helping if you want – but stick to it. You do need to be able to trust yourself, though, to have a taste of what you want and then to move on. If you are not sure, stay clear of the temptation.
Eat Something First To Keep The Cravings At Bay
Have an intention in advance. If you are going to an event or know you will be having a big meal, eat something small and healthy beforehand to take the edge off your appetite. That way, you won’t be tempted to go crazy with helpings and portions.
Try To Avoid Stress
Easier said than done. Christmas can be very stressful, and stress can affect and change the brain drastically. To save yourself a whole lot of woes, some planning is required. Decide in advance where you will be for Christmas and who you will be with. Don’t walk blindly into situations where you know you will be propelled into reaching for food to get you through the occasion.
Give It Away
If you do find you have a surplus of biscuits and chocolates on Boxing Day, don’t feel compelled to polish them off well into the New Year. There are plenty of food banks that will welcome food donations. Remember, it’s the season of goodwill.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Bunmi Aboaba is a Food Addiction Coach and leading authority on food addiction, helping clients achieve a healthy relationship with food to meet long-term health goals. Her work covers the full spectrum of disordered eating, including overeating, compulsive eating, emotional eating, and other associated patterns.
Dr Bunmi is the creator of the R4 Method, a Food Addiction Certification to support nutritionists, nurses, teachers, health and fitness professionals, dieticians and medical clinicians to help their clients achieve long-lasting results. She will be running 7-day self-care retreats for clients suffering from food addiction in 2022 and is the author of Craving Freedom, a new book for those wanting to build a healthy relationship with food (published 1st Dec).
Wonderful tips! I don’t tend to overeat during the holidays. If I have a big holiday meal, I fast beforehand or just eat less the next day. I actually just eat small portions now.
The holidays are the WORST for me, eaiting-wise. Thanks for these great tips, hopefully they’ll help!
Great tips. I tend to just sit and graze and I’m not going to do that this year!
Hey Dr Bunmi,
Great to see you here on Sonia’s blog.
Awesome blog post on how to tackle one of the main challenges of the Christmas season: Overindulgence!
This is a thoughtful and practical article.
And there’s so much to take away from this amazing write-up. However, if I was to pick and choose, my main takeaway would be “Don’t Buy More Than You Need”, and “Don’t Keep Trigger Foods Within Eyesight”. Those two points kind of summarise the article.
Thanks for sharing,
Taking breaks is very important. I normally don’t have issues with food at all and I have a good grasp of my own stomach but there are some specific things about Christmas that often make me fail
I know it’s a mistake to buy more than you need, but I just can’t help it 🙂