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A spread of beautiful fruits and meat platters. Friends are having cocktails while dining around this table.

Fill Your Plate: Intuitive Eating During the Holiday Season

Intuition: Quick and ready insight; immediate apprehension or cognition.

When you’re trying to eat healthier or be healthier, the holidays pose a slight dilemma. Holiday dinner doesn’t exactly scream intuitive eating. It’s more like stuff-your-face-eating-because-who-knows-when-the-next-time-we’ll-be-eating-all-this-stuff-again-is.

If you’re anything like me, you take on a scarcity approach at Christmas dinner. You think about how it will be so long until you get to enjoy all these wonderful holiday dishes again. And you overeat.

Ultimately, this leaves you wondering why you had to eat so much (been there). Did you really need that second or third helping of dessert? Why did you pile the stuffing and gravy on? You’re left feeling overly full - which isn’t exactly fun. Oh, and hello, turkey coma!

So, how can you stop this pattern of eating? How can you plan your Christmas diet plan so you don’t end up feeling guilty or sick after?

Well - it all comes down to intuitive eating (aka not stuffing your face until you feel sick) and the best part? You’re not restricted on what you can and can’t eat.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating comes down to listening to your body. At Christmas dinner, take your time. Eat slowly. Chew every bite. Slow is the real key here. Your brain needs time to register that you are, in fact, full. This takes about 20 minutes. Give your brain time to catch on, then you can decide if you truly need that second or third helping.

In other words… Learn to trust your body! Seriously. It knows a lot. And so many of us ignore it when we should be paying the most attention to it.

Hunger: The Differences

Get to know the difference between physical and emotional hunger (Hint: there’s a huge difference!). Physical hunger is when you’re actually hungry and your body needs nutrients and fuel. Your stomach might grumble. You may feel tired or irritated. Usually, you need food.

Emotional hunger, on the other hand, is fueled by your emotions. You’re bored or feeling sad, so you eat. You try to fill a void.

Intuitive eating is knowing the difference between these two.

Read More: Emotional Eating: Why You Do It & How To Stop

Is Intuitive Eating the Anti-diet?

It’s also about rejecting conventional restrictive diets that tend to cause more problems than they solve. How does it do this? By using your intuition to eat, you’ll fuel your body with only what it needs. And that doesn’t involve eliminating any food groups or items. So, you can still enjoy your favourite dessert every now and then. After all, life is to be enjoyed - not restricted. Let’s be honest,“yo-yo diets” never work out in the long run.

On top of giving your body what it needs, you can use your intuition to know what foods feel good and what don’t. This is also important. If you truly want to optimize your health, you need to listen to your body before, during, and after you eat.

If that ice cream didn’t feel so good an hour later, maybe don’t have as much or try out different kinds. It might end up being that you’re lactose intolerant and when you use your intuition, you might notice that those processed and pre-packaged foods don’t feel as good after eating as whole foods do.

Alright, so how can you really start getting more intuitive when you eat? And how can you keep yourself under control at your next holiday dinner?

Tips for Intuitive Eating

1. When you’re hungry, eat

Try not to put it off. When you become overly hungry, it might get confusing when you’re actually full. Often, you’ll end up eating more when you leave it for too long (studies show this). Fuel your body when it needs it!

Just like your parents always told you, don’t spoil your dinner! Try to avoid the table of snacks before dinner so you can eat the good stuff and nourish your body.

2. Understand food better

Make sure you research what you are putting in your body. Why are some foods “good” and some foods “bad”? In truth, there’s a load of garbage out there on this. Look at the research and dig in. Some things aren’t always as they seem!

One major thing to consider is how much energy you are getting from certain foods and how that benefits you. You’ll be surprised how this can change your perspective on fueling your body, especially at the holiday dinner table.

3. Stop when you feel full

Respect your body enough to stop eating when you feel full. Again, eat slow. Chew every bite. Don’t eat with distractions in front of you. Tune into what your body’s feeling. When you feel comfortably full, stop.

Perhaps only take half the amount you’d like to eat and let your body intuitively decide if you want more. This will prevent you from eating just to clear your plate, and lets me honest, seconds always taste better.

4. Find other ways to feel ‘full’

One of the biggest struggles with emotional eating is finding a way to disassociate food with certain emotions. We recommend that when you feel like binge eating a full bag of chips try drinking a glass of water, replace food with talking it out with a friend or next time your bored, find a new activity to engage in. Have a go-to!

This will help you reprogram your brain to eat intuitively instead of impulsively. We recommend chatting up a family member during your holiday dinner so that you can multitask eating and socializing.

5. Exercise!

I know we’re talking about eating here, but exercise can help regulate a lot - like your hormones. It can also energize you and get you out of a funk - meaning if you’re turning to food to cope with your emotions, it could help you cope healthier and better.

We suggest going for a walk after your holiday dinner, or try chasing the dog around a bit. All of this will help you feel better after feasting.

Intuitive Eating: The Anti-Diet You Need

It’s not just about your upcoming holiday dinner. Intuitive eating is an important trait to have all-year round. It can help you better your health and your life.

Read more about Intuitive Eating in Listen to Your Gut: The Benefits of Intuitive Eating
Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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