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As soon as December hits, our minds turn to food and drink. It’s normal to eat more than usual over Christmas and the New Year, especially with the cold weather and lots more social events. However, whether you have experience with an eating disorder or not, unhealthy relationships with food are often highlighted around this time of year. Not sure how to silence these thoughts? Express.co.uk has chatted to three industry experts to find out how YOU can practise food freedom and say no to the guilty feelings popping up when you eat more than usual this Christmas.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of giving, eating, drinking and being merry, but that’s not the reality for lots of people.

Christmas parties and events bring pressure to look and feel glamorous, but December is also all about relaxing and eating what you want.

It can be hard not to feel guilty and feel negative about your body when the festive season is all about bingeing on high-calorie foods or simply eating more indulgently for weeks at a time.

Don’t worry, it’s perfectly healthy to eat more than usual if that’s what YOU want to do.

Express.co.uk chatted to three experts to find out the five steps to beating the guilty feeling associated with overeating at Christmas.

Set realistic intentions for the New Year

As we approach the festive season and new year, Holly Zoccolan (Nutritional Health Coach and Founder of The Health Zoc) advises setting some intentions rooted in self-love.

Stop overeating and using the excuse that you’ll go on a diet in the new year – be kind to yourself and set more positive ‘resolutions’.

Holly said: “Language such as ‘new year, new me’ can be loaded with negative connotations or overly high expectations.

“That’s why I prefer to use the term ‘intentions’, rather than goals or resolutions.

“It’s not about telling yourself you’re not good enough, or that you need to completely change yourself and restrict your eating habits over the festive season.

“Instead, make wellness intentions that involve being kind to yourself – that come from a place of self-compassion and self-love, and help you feel better every day, not the distant future.

“If you intend to spend more time feeding your body with nutritious foods every day, but one weekend or over the festive season, you end up indulging in all of your favourite foods, that’s OK.”

Be mindful NOW, don’t wait until January

Mindful eating is being in the moment when you eat the food and observing how you feel as you eat it, and we should all be doing this over Christmas.

That’s not to say you can’t go overboard, but you’ll save yourself the guilt and negative feelings if you really think about what you want to eat.

Jessica Shand, Naturopathic Nutrition Specialist and Founder of Eat, Nourish and Glow (@eatnourishandglow on Instagram) said: “Christmas is a time to celebrate and enjoy the festivities with friends and family and, as a lot of the festive fun centres around food and drink, it can be hard to relax and let go of the negative feelings of guilt around food.

“Life is all about balance, even in December and January when It can feel one extreme to another.

“My advice is to enjoy this magical time of year but still try to be mindful and considered your approach to your diet instead of getting to January and feeling like you have to diet and restrict foods in order to make up for your diet during December.

“Adopting this positive and balanced mindset when it comes to your diet and lifestyle will serve your body, health and your mind so well and will hopefully help you let go of the damaging and toxic guilt surrounding food.”

Keep repeating Jessica’s motto – ‘nourish not punish’ – to remind you that balance is best because it’s possible to be mindful and eat well whilst also allowing yourself time to let your hair down too.

See the bigger picture

You’re not going to gain a stone after eating one big meal, so try not to be too hard on yourself.

Jessica said: “Remember: good, positive nutrition is not based on one meal, it’s the small healthy habits you do on a daily basis for the majority of the time that add up and will help you feel your best.”

You might not be eating a perfectly balanced diet on Christmas week, but keep your other healthy habits in check (where possible).

She added: “You can still enjoy the festivities and around the social events in your diary eat to nourish your body, stay hydrated and prioritise sleep when you can.

“This balance will help you create a balanced and realistic way to enjoy the festive season and help you enter the new year in the most empowered and positive way possible!”

Taste

Feeling too full and bloated isn’t nice for anyone, so you’ll be better off eating in a way that avoids this feeling.

Michael Brigo, Founder of Brigo Personal Training, recommends tasting everything you want rather than eating too much and feeling sick and guilty.

He said: “To feel guilt-free this Christmas, I like to introduce the concept of tasting to my clients.

“The main concept of tasting is rather than eating big food portions, you limit your intake by tasting food and no foods are off-limits.

“This concept is ideal for finger food which is often served at Christmas dos, and you are not missing out but at the same time you’re not overconsuming or overindulging.”

Watch your portions

If you watch your portions, you can have a guilt-free Christmas without having to go crazy and overindulging, Michael said.

The expert explained: “I love to apply the hand portion method with my clients and that is a cupped hand for carbohydrates, a palm-size for proteins, a thumb-size for fat and a fist full for vegetables.

“The hand portion method is ideal to promote weight loss, weight maintenance and good energy balances.

“But, if you are going to have a festive moment during Christmas then you can simply double up on those portions.

“So, two of each hand portion allows for a bit more food without overindulging and overstepping the mark.

“Even doubling up, these portions are still going to be smaller than the average portion size most people have.”

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