The excitement and anticipation of the holiday season is upon us. It’s a time for parties, family gatherings and exchanging gifts. But for some, the steady supply of sweets treats, comfort foods, and festive cocktails, combined with the chaos of the season brings angst. It’s common to try to restrict rich foods, worry about weight gain, and overindulge while vowing to go on a strict diet and get in shape come January first. For those with celiac disease, the holidays can be a time of mourning “gluten-full” favorites like gingerbread cookies or bread stuffing. Deprivation inevitably leads to overeating (or eating unsafe foods), feelings of being weak or out of control, and guilt. If that sounds all too familiar, try shifting your focus inward. Tap into the body’s intuitive nature for a more balanced and peaceful approach to enjoying the holidays – including those scrumptious cookies. Experiment with these tips to heighten the awareness of your internal cues:
- Practice mindful eating. Take in the presentation, colors, and aroma. Take a deep breath. Offer your gratitude – silent or aloud. Take a bite; taste the food. Really taste it. Experience the mouth feel. Chew at least 20-30 times. Continue to eat slowly. Try to gain as much satisfaction and pleasure from the eating experience as possible.
- Allow yourself to eat any food you desire. Ask yourself “What do I want to eat?” Then decide: do you like it? If not, then move on to something that you really do enjoy.
- Discern your hunger and fullness. Try eating until satisfied. If you overeat out of fear that particular food won’t be available again until next holiday, ask the host to set aside a serving for later when you’re hungry again. Or ask for the recipe and make it whenever you like.
- Notice how you feel. Thinking about what the tongue and the brain crave is important, but thinking about how your body will feel is equally important. Try to eat in a way that will leave you feeling alert and energetic so you can truly enjoy vising with friends and family. This is different for every person. For those newly diagnosed with celiac disease, considering how the gut will feel can make it easier to eat only safe foods.
- Speak up for your needs. If you have celiac disease or any other special dietary need, alert the host ahead of time of your dietary needs and bring a favorite dish to contribute to the feast.
- It is OK to say no. It is not your responsibility to flatter the host by accepting seconds or eating a dessert that won’t make you feel your best. It’s OK to politely refuse, more than once if necessary.
- Release judgmental thoughts and guilty emotions around food. Replace them with compassion, acceptance, and respect for yourself.
Every person has an intuitive sense of what to eat, how much, and when. Start bringing awareness to this intuition, and reclaim the joy of the holiday season.