A family (mum, dad, daughter) setting up a Christmas tree in a dim lit room

The silly season is well and truly in swing with most Australian’s relaxing their existing ‘food rules’ to indulge in the annual event. From Christmas parties to family and friend catch-ups, most will see an increase in their food and beverage intake. Unfortunately, we also see an increase in concern about weight gain, loss of ‘healthy habits’ and ‘falling off the wagon’.

Guilt, disappointment and a sense of failure are common feelings after the festive period, with a 2019 survey showing that 29% of Australian’s made a 2019 new year’s resolution to improve their fitness and lose weight.

So how do you strike the balance between enjoying this festive period and keeping on track with your health goals? The answer is a mindset.

Eat Intuitively & Be Present

Intuitive or Mindful eating is based on paying more attention to the experience of eating. It involves observing how the food makes you feel and the signals your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness. Begin by giving gratitude and reflection on where the food comes from. Take a moment to appreciate the paddock to plate journey (harvest, purchase, preparation). Employ all your senses (look, smell, taste, feel) and how this changes as you chew your foods. Eat slowly with your companions by placing utensils down between bites. For most of us, it’s unrealistic to think we can be mindful of every bite or even for every meal we eat. Instead, think of mindful eating like exercise: every little bit counts.

Get In Touch With Your Body’s Hunger & Fullness Levels

One way the diet culture hooks you in is by selling you the notion that if left to your own devices, you would not be able to manage your own eating. In reality, given you have access to adequate amounts and a good variety of foods, you already have these skills. Firstly you need to consume a nourishing snack or meal regular (this will vary from person to person, but a guideline is every 3-4 hours). Check-in with your hunger at various times and rate it on a scale of 1-10. A great time to eat is a level 3-4 (hungry, stomach growing, needs energy – stomach feels slightly empty “I could eat”. Hunger can also present as fatigue, anxiety, shakiness, headaches, etc. Reduced desire to eat, not thinking about food, or feeling more energized can be a sign of fullness.

Do Not Restrict Your Food

The diet cycle is a trap many people are caught in after the festive period. The diet cycle looks like this. Food is restricted for weight management. Feelings of deprivation arise with an increasing desire for the foods being avoided. Temptation is given into and a binge occurs, followed by a short period of feeling better. This is then followed by guilt, failure &/or anger because of ‘low willpower’. Restriction begins again and the cycle repeats. Avoid labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. All foods can be consumed in moderation without compromising health goals.

Keep Active, But Don’t Compensate

55% of Australian’s do not meet the physical activity guidelines. Whilst this is a good reminder to be active over the festive period, avoid using exercise as a method to make up for having eaten and consumed calories. This compensatory behaviour mindset contributes to the diet culture reinforcing that people should have the willpower to avoid foods that are more indulgent.

Respect Your Body

Take a moment to think about the daily functions your body completes and appreciate it. Thank your legs for your movement, your heart for oxygenating your entire body or your mind for being kind and non-judgmental. Take the focus away from your body as an object of judgment and appreciate it for what it does.

Save Your Money

A national survey found that 46% of Australian’s actively tried to lose weight last year. Of these, 47% paid for a specific diet, weight loss program or diet products. The greatest success for weight loss is seen with ongoing dietary counselling and support. Studies showing different diet types (e.g. 5:2 or reduced energy diets) show that weight loss slows once dietitian follow-ups stop regardless of the diet undertaken. Avoid fad dieting and see a Registered Dietitian.


Written By Dietitian, Ricki-Lee Driver

Ricki-Lee is available for Dietitian appointments via Telehealth. Book Now