Enjoying a guilt-free Christmas this year
The festive season comes with its joys and celebrations but most of us anticipate the guilt that will surely follow our indulgence when the new year arrives. A guilty and self-loathing Christmas is no way to spend the holiday, however you celebrate or enjoy the time off. A holiday with all your favourite treats, recipes and traditions can be guilt-free and full of food joy. That is our goal for Christmas this year, after nearly two years of restrictions and lockdowns, we can allow ourselves a guilt-free Christmas at least.
Finding food joy in the festive season comes naturally to most of us as the November cold makes our bodies crave the warm roast dinners of the winter season. We enjoy hot and filling foods shared with family in the warmth of our homes and it’s exactly what our bodies need and want! Not only is a Christmas roast dinner a beloved tradition in most our homes here in the UK and Ireland but across the colder countries, families enjoy warm and hearty foods around Christmas. In Germany it’s a Christmas goose stuffed with apples, chestnuts, and onions. In the Philippines it’s a spit-roasted pig accompanied with cheese and spring rolls. And in Finland it’s a spread of casseroles, Christmas ham, stews, and fish. It’s the early winter season of December that warns our bodies of its coldness and harshness. Our bodies crave root vegetables, soups, stews, roasts, and hot drinks. We crave comfort and cosiness throughout the colder months, and it aligns perfectly with most of our winter holiday traditions. A lot of people celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, but it is also a time for celebrating food, warmth, and good company. Here in the UK, we fill our tummies with cranberry stuffing and potatoes, warm mulled wine and taste the nostalgia of past Christmases with tins of chocolate and bottles of Bailey’s. To allow ourselves to enjoy such simple pleasures we must adopt the Scandinavian lifestyle which is hygge.
Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word that describes a mood of cosiness, comfort and wellness and it completely contradicts the guilt we feel around the holiday season. It is a lifestyle that appreciates the warm and simple pleasures of life with the focus around food and company. Maybe our guilt comes from work, and we struggle to switch off and enjoy the moment. Or maybe our guilt comes from all the healthy habits we developed this year, and we struggle to enjoy Christmas foods and drinks. Food fears can take over during this season that is full of sweet treats and recipes. But the tip is this: enjoying Christmas and abandoning our healthy habits are not the same thing. We can enjoy our favourite chocolate orange muffins and roast potatoes and advent calendars and Bailey’s hot chocolates and not ignore our health and wellbeing. Hygge is about wellbeing and comfort, not restrictions and diets. Staying in tune with our body this holiday season will allow us to enjoy our festive food favourites in the right proportions. Bingeing sweet treats as soon as the holiday hits is neither comforting or well for our bodies and leaves us feeling guilty, ashamed, and often physically sick. Instead, we can eat mindfully and wholly, enjoying what our bodies want in a quantity that doesn’t compromise our overall health. Combining our less nutritious, but enjoyable, Christmas treats with nourishing and hearty foods can help us manage our indulgences this holiday in a healthy and fulfilling way. It is very in tune with intuitive eating, which you can learn more about on this blog and linked Instagram. You could even substitute your usual supermarket favourites with more wholesome and nutritious homemade recipes.
I also mentioned eating mindfully, which is an in-tune awareness of the food and drink we consume. It develops our food satisfaction and allows us to appreciate what we eat fully. This may lead us to enjoying those sweet treats more, but in a quantity that our bodies can manage. It develops hygge by developing a deeper connection with food and our environment, allowing us to really relax and enjoy the moment. This might be appreciating a piece of Christmas fruit cake for dessert, or the roast dinner with friends and family during the buzz of the day or a cheese spread with wine and a close friend or simply enjoying a homemade gingerbread man alone with a cup of tea. Hygge embraces simplicity, so aim to take joy in those small moments that add little festivity to the day. Hygge isn’t about guilt or overindulging, it’s about enjoyment and fulfilment. Combined with mindful eating and listening to your own body, you can apply the comfort of hygge to the parts of Christmas you struggle to enjoy. So, enjoy that mince pie or slice of pudding completely.
Sometimes our guilt comes after the Christmas period, during that highly commercialised and dreaded New Year of resolutions and new healthy habits. The media is oversaturated with diets, workouts and magic pills and shakes that supposedly remove the indulgences of Christmas and allow us to start anew. It implies that enjoying Christmas was a mistake and that we should feel guilty and fix it immediately. If we respect our bodies over the Christmas period, there is no need to compromise the new year with restrictions and regret. The Christmas period was meant to be enjoyed, just as the New Year is meant to be enjoyed. It should most certainly mean more and not less. More food appreciation. More body appreciation. More mindful eating and more nourishment. Aim to apply the same hygge lifestyle to the New Year, so that you feel fulfilled and appreciative of your food choices. This positive and grateful attitude towards your body and what you put in it should help you enjoy winter guilt-free and full of food joy.