Intuitive Eating During the Holidays

Intuitive Eating During the Holidays

While the holidays are a time filled with love, happiness, and connection they can also be a time of stress, emotions, and anxiety. These feelings can come up due to traveling, family obligations, or worry surrounding food. A lot of people on a healing journey tend to struggle with how to navigate food and nutrition during the holidays. Whether this be fear around certain foods, anxiety around advocating for your specific needs to be met, or overwhelm as a result of all the obligations that come up during these times, it can be difficult to create space to make a plan on how to alleviate these feelings. That is why you may find this guide helpful, it lists some of the best ways to bring intuitive eating into the holidays, so you can enjoy time spent with loved ones in its fullest capacity. 

It is important to remember that there are things we can do to support our bodies during stressful times, and one of these is to take Bitter herbs! Bitters help regulate our blood sugar and this in turn helps support a healthy stress response! 

Shop bitters! 

Also if you are looking for more ways to support your hormones while traveling for the holidays, read all about this here!

Expand your definition of health to include enjoyment

When people are asked to define health they usually list things such as eating wholesome foods, including movement into their days, and sometimes talking about reducing stress from their days. What a lot of people tend to forget about is the importance of enjoyment in their health. Enjoying our food is a really important part of a healthy nutrition plan, and is often forgotten in the common “health-conscious” narrative that food is fuel and just that. But food is also connection, a way to bring people together to celebrate and nourish their bodies and hearts. It is also culture, a way to express deep ties to one’s community or the land they are from. It is a form of expression and a way to experience different pleasurable sensations, which is a beautiful part of the human experience. We all too often get lost in the mindset of seeing food through a nutritional lens that we tend to forget how many other ways it nourishes our minds and spirits. 

Be present and fully engage in conversation with loved ones while eating, as that is the main importance of the holiday

For a lot of people, food is the main event during holidays and that can be overwhelming for some! That is completely normal and valid, and one way to mitigate this would be to switch the focus to the real reason for having these holidays: the gathering. Holidays are so special in the sense that they bring people together and gather all your loved ones in one place. Trying to take your focus off of the food and divert that towards all the conversations you are having with loved ones, on the games you’re all playing, and on the stories you are all telling can be helpful in making you appreciate the true spirit of these celebrations. 

Remind yourself that you deserve to eat no matter what, and eating something is always more healthy for your body than eating nothing

When our bodies are stressed and hungry, they go into a state of survival mode. Fight or flight kicks in because your body thinks it is starving, cortisol levels rise, and this causes inflammation, alters your immune system, affects digestion, and negatively impacts reproductive health. Also, when you skip meals this leads to an imbalance in nutrients and blood sugar, which also affects your hormone levels, specifically insulin and ghrelin. Ghrelin levels spike in order to cause hunger pains to encourage you to go find food. Insulin production lowers and causes a drop in blood sugar, which can cause stress, anxiety, agitation, influence hormones, and affect your overall mood. Reminding yourself that all food is nourishing, and finding a way to build a plate that is in close alignment to your nutrition goals while still allowing you to enjoy this once a year celebration is extremely healthy. Building a plate with protein, carbs, and healthy fats along with vegetables at these gatherings is thankfully so easy due to the nature of traditional holiday foods. Also appreciating the love and energy that went into the making of these foods is a very beautiful part of the holidays as well!

Learning how to heal your relationship with your body can be a long process and seem daunting, listen to Maddie talk about how she navigates this in our podcast episode here!

Focus on nourishing your body throughout the day

On holidays you hear a lot of people talking about how they will choose to wait all day to enjoy a large feast in the evening, however this usually leads to lowered blood sugar throughout the day and potential overeating at the big feast. In order to support your mental and physical health, it is smart to follow a normal eating schedule throughout the day to maintain healthy blood sugar balance and allow your body to have fuel all day long. As mentioned earlier, skipping meals wreaks havoc on your mind and body, which is not what we want! Ensuring you eat three meals with snacks dispersed throughout the day is important, even on holidays!

When all else fails, have a list of go to coping mechanisms for when overwhelm may settle in

We know that all of this sounds amazing in theory, but regardless, the reality is that holidays can just be plain stressful for some, and knowing yourself and honoring how you feel is important. Having a toolbox full of healthy coping mechanisms you can pull out in a time of need is extremely helpful. Some examples would be a few deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed and/or overstimulated. Remembering that you can always slip away into the bathroom for a quick 5-10 minutes of mindfulness whenever you feel the need. Honoring yourself is the healthiest thing you can do anytime of the year. 

Remind yourself that your body is resilient

Whatever it may be that is worrying you about this holiday season, remember that your body is extremely resilient. Commemorate yourself for all the healing work you have put into yourself this past year and know that eating a meal with family that is full of love and enjoyment is not going to derail any of your health and healing goals. If you are not allergic to food, there is no reason for you to not enjoy it every once in a while, because you are supporting your body so much already. Some ways to help support your body in its resiliency is to eat bitter herbs that stimulate digestion and support your detoxification pathways that remove toxins from your body. You can also regularly engage in mindfulness and meditation, to improve your body's ability to adapt to stressful situations. It is also beneficial to include adaptogens into your life, which can also help your body adapt to both physical and mental stressors and mitigate the effects they have on your body. Some of my favorites are holy basil (tulsi), maca, and ashwagandha. 

Overall, just being gentle with yourself is all you can really ask of yourself in all situations. Having grace and perspective is important when it comes to all things health and wellness. I find it really helpful to ask myself perspective setting questions such as, what will be more important to me 5 years from now? The memories I create with loved ones, or stressing about what I ate this one night?


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