By Dr Bunmi Aboaba, Food Addiction Coach

Christmas is an important time for a variety of businesses, including supermarkets, and their advertising campaigns are in full-swing. We understand why they want us to buy, buy, buy – it’s good for their profits. But it’s not necessarily good for our waistlines. Or our pockets.

Christmas is also a time when we tend to think about other people more. The current HGV crisis could affect supplies to shops, so when you’re filling your shopping trolley in the run up to Christmas, think about the next family that needs to shop. And think about yourself. The more you buy the more you’ll be tempted.

So how do we avoid falling into the same old trap of overbuying and overeating again this year? By adopting a few of the following strategies we can ensure we have a healthy relationship with our food this Christmas.

Be aware

Most people have a strong psychological connection with food that often starts in childhood and can be both positive and negative. Sugar is a common reward. When I beat alcohol addiction, I found myself eating biscuits and a tub of ice-cream every night until I quickly realised that I had just replaced one addiction with another. With addiction comes denial and it’s hard to stop if you are loving the intoxicant so much. When I detoxed from sugar, I suffered massive withdrawal symptoms including brain fog, night sweats and mood swings. Be aware that anything ultra-processed and with additives will enhance dopamine, the neurotransmitter that creates pleasure in the brain, and that’s when the rewards system goes into overdrive. To be safe, give those foods a wide berth.

Pause. Take a breath.

Before you reach for something ask yourself:

Is this life-enhancing?

Is it nutritious?

What am I really going to enjoy about eating this?

Usually that’s all it takes to swerve a temptation. A slight pause slows down the impulse part of the brain.

Distraction

Go for a walk after Christmas lunch rather than slumping on the sofa eating chocolates. Try to replace food and maybe some mealtimes with non-food hobbies and positive strategies such as meditation. We still have caveman brains programmed to chase and hunt down things to eat. It’s the feast or famine mentality, so we need distractions. Keep a gratitude journal. Overeating can be triggered by emotions, especially when we are feeling sad. Making a list of the good things in your life will keep your spirits high.

Buddy up

If you are at a party or function, send a friend who knows what you like to get you a plate of food from the buffet. You won’t end up with more than you need, and you are unlikely to then get up for more.

Drink lots

Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Drink plenty of water. Reaching for a glass of water every time you think you are hungry will help you differentiate between hunger and thirst.

Get plenty of sleep and fresh air

Self-care, whether it’s a lovely walk in the park or a bubble bath can really help to change your relationship with food. When you feel good about yourself, you care about what you put in your body.

Give yourself permission to have one or two treats and then stop

Tell yourself you will have one helping if it is something you really want – but stick to it. You do need to be able to trust yourself though to just have a taste of what you want and then to move on. If you are not sure, stay clear of the temptation.

Eat something first to keep the cravings at bay

Have an intention in advance. If you are going to an event or know you will be having a big meal, eat something small and healthy beforehand to take the edge off your appetite. That way you won’t be tempted to go crazy with helpings and portions.

Give it away

If you do find you have a surplus of biscuits and chocolates on Boxing Day don’t feel compelled to polish them off well into the New Year. There are plenty of food banks that will welcome food donations. Remember, it’s the season of goodwill.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr Bunmi Aboaba is a Food Addiction Coach and leading authority on food addiction, helping clients achieve a healthy relationship with food to meet long-term health goals.  Dr Bunmi’s work covers the full spectrum of disordered eating, including overeating, compulsive eating, emotional eating, and other associated patterns. Dr Bunmi is creator of the R4 Method, a Food Addiction Certification to support nutritionists, nurses, teachers, health and fitness professionals, dieticians and medical clinicians to help their clients achieve long-lasting results. Dr Bunmi will be running 7-day self-care retreats for clients suffering from food addiction in 2022, and is author of Craving Freedom, a new book for those wanting to build a healthy relationship with food (published 1st Dec).

Web: www.thefoodaddictioncoach.co.uk

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