Surviving the festive period by Helen Hendry

The countdown to Christmas Day begins! The kids have broken up from school, the Christmas cake is well boozed and the goose is getting fat. Last minute shopping to do, and then time to relax, enjoy and be merry?


In theory, yes.

But if you’re a chronic dieter, or suffer with any form of disordered eating, either lurking in the back of your mind, or right out there at the forefront is the diet demon; your worst enemy and your best friend. He’s shouting at you for every mouthful of Christmas cheer you eat and drink, leaving you feeling guilty for relaxing from your diet for a couple of weeks in case you put on weight.

But it doesn’t matter, you tell yourself because you can rest safe in the knowledge that come 1st January 2016, you’ll be straight back to making friends with your diet demon. You’ll stuff your face for the entirety of Christmas, knowing that 2016 is the year that you are finally going to lose all that weight, and keep it off this time.

I know from years of experience how stressful and anxiety ridden the festive period can be if you’ve been dieting for what seems like eternity. So I’d like to offer a few tips to help you through Christmas & New Year, and to help you on your way to saying farewell for good to your diet demon, and begin a nourishing relationship with food and your body over the festive period.

Reconnect to the meaning of Christmas; You may not believe in the true meaning of Christmas, but think of the things it represents for you that don’t involve food and drink (and if you do believe, remember what it is you’re actually celebrating!) We so often associate Christmas with a time of overindulgence, but it doesn’t have to be. For me, it’s Carols from Kings, afternoon snoozes in front of Christmas films, dancing round the living room to Mariah Carey, hours of monopoly and card games and catching up with family members and friends I haven’t seen all year. What does Christmas mean for you?

Remember; you can have it tomorrow; You’ve decided to really let your hair down as it’s Christmas. “It’s only a few days” you tell yourself. So you take that literally – you eat ALL the food for 2 weeks solidly without even thinking about it. The wonderful thing about not dieting is the knowledge that you don’t have to eat ALL the food today, because you’re also allowed to eat tomorrow – and the next day. In fact, you’re allowed anything any day of the year! Yes, you really are allowed to eat chocolate on a Monday, and your whole world won’t fall apart. You’re also allowed to eat when you are hungry when you’re not on a diet – no more ignoring hunger pangs. The very act of denying yourself what you really want makes you want it a hundred times more.

Slow down; Christmas is often a time of year for reflecting and spending time with family. Many of us have time off work. So a great opportunity to slow down, and be mindful of what we’re doing, and who we’re doing it with. That includes being mindful of what and how you are eating…

Connect with your food; Before you tuck into your umpteenth chocolate of the day, take a pause and think about whether you really want it. Do you even like chocolate? For those of us that have been dieting for so long, we’re often so ravenous, we just grab the nearest thing to us rather than stop and think about whether it is really what our body is asking for. Show gratitude towards the food you are eating, and towards the people that have prepared it for you (that includes yourself!) Eat it slowly and mindfully. Savour and study your food as if you had to give a presentation on every mouthful of every meal you eat. How does it taste? What’s the texture like? Do you like the way it looks? Does it smell appealing?

Move; There used to be a time where I would exercise every day during the Christmas period to punish myself for the food I had eaten. I’m not saying don’t exercise, but try not to see it as punishment for overindulging. Move in a way that feels good for your body. Move because you want to, not because you have to. Why not go for a brisk walk with the family; have a Christmas dance off around the tree or find some quiet time do find a gentle yoga video on Youtube?

Be kind to yourself; This is becoming one of my mantras. But it really is the best thing you can do to help survive a period which is so often riddled with anxiety and stress around food and drink. So you might not have done all the things above and you’ve overindulged. Your trousers are about to burst, you feel sick at the sight of turkey, but yet you still feel the urge to eat more. You’re more than likely feeling incredibly uncomfortable. But please – be kind to yourself. You are not a failure. You are just joining the millions of other people who overindulge around Christmas. Like everyone else, you are not perfect, and you never will be.

Tomorrow is a new day; If all else fails, tomorrow is a new day, and you can have another go. Letting go of the dieting mentality and listening to your body is a practice. It’s a new habit to learn, and one that will take time.

Think about a new approach for the New Year; If you’ve been reading my blogs regularly, you may well have noticed that I’m not a fan of diets. Mainly because they don’t work long term, and often lead millions of people to a miserable life of restriction, disordered eating, and poor body image.

Perhaps instead of 2016 being the year of starting yet another diet, it could be the year you let go of your dieting obsession, learn to trust yourself around food, and learn to love and accept your body as it is.

If this sounds appealing, and you’re interested in learning more, I’ll be delivering a 6 week group course starting in February 2016 all about why diets don’t work, and teaching people how to let go of dieting and form a healthy relationship with food and body. This starts with a FREE introductory talk on Monday 1st February, 7-8pm at the Albany Theatre, Deptford. For more information, and to book your place at the introductory session, email me here.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very merry festive season, and New Year. Thanks for reading in 2015.

About Helen Hendry

Helen Hendry is a qualified Psychology of Eating Coach and Personal Trainer. Helen is passionate about supporting people to have a more positive relationship with food and their bodies through personalised movement and eating psychology coaching. For more information, check her website

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