Nutrition: Control the Christmas cravings, so they don’t control you

Being more mindful about your Christmas treats and eats can mean that you are more in control of what you eat and when you eat it, says Jane McClenaghan

You don't have to be a slave to the Christmas cravings (drduey/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Today’s winter solstice marks the end of long nights and the gradual return of daylight - and, of course, it is just four more sleeps until Christmas Day. It is the perfect time to remind ourselves what this time of year is really all about.

We should be nourishing and nurturing ourselves, not going crazy in Tesco or losing the rag with our last minute shopping. If you are feeling a bit stressed out, fed up or at the end of your tinsel-tether and finding yourself seeking solace at the bottom of a tin of sweets, then give yourself a break and remember that it takes more than willpower to balance the treats at this time of year.

There are different reasons why we crave stuff that is less than good for us: comfort eating, eating it because it is there, or simply because we are hungry are just some reasons why we might be tempted to tuck into the Pringles after breakfast.

Food can make us feel better when we are feeling stressed out, anxious, sad or just fed up. Maybe you are not eating as well as you usually do at your main meals, so it is hunger that is driving you to eat the sugary stuff, rather than a lack of willpower.

Being a little bit more mindful about your Christmas treats and eats can mean that you are more in control of what you eat and when you eat it, rather than being driven by uncontrollable cravings and then feeling mad, bad or sad about it.

I am definitely not suggesting that you go on a diet, restrict your favourite festive foods or deny yourself the Christmas treats on offer, but by creating a bit of structure and planning for the days ahead you will be more in control of when you eat your treats.

That way, you will control the cravings and they won’t control you. Your routine will be out the window between now and the New Year, so keep some healthy foundations and to limit the negative effect of the different foods you will be eating.

  • Keep your mealtimes regular. Eat breakfast and don’t skip meals so that you are not overly hungry.
  • Keep well hydrated. Sometimes we confuse thirst with hunger.
  • Whether it’s a mince pie or two, mulled wine or a platter of nibbles, allow yourself the chance to indulge and enjoy the best of the season. Be mindful and enjoy every mouthful, knowing that this is treat and not a trigger to set you off track. When you get out of the dieting mindset and don’t classify food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but just as food, this is so much easier. Remember that it is all a matter of balance. Eating healthy food most of the time means that when you do decide to overindulge, it will not do you much harm - and might give you a lot of pleasure.
  • Remember that you are not good if you eat well, or bad if you eat less nutritious food. Your diet is not a reflection of you as a human. It is a choice. You have the power to decide what is best for you. Sometimes that will be broccoli with lunch and sometimes that will be mince pies for breakfast...

Enjoy the time with your nearest and dearest over the next few days and make the most of the Christmas food. It is all part of the celebrations. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.