Intuitive Eating During the Holidays

Written by Stephanie PW Wong, MSc Foods and Nutrition (Candidate)

Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD

In the midst of the holiday season, many of us are preparing for festive gatherings with our closest family and friends. However, some of us may also associate this time of the year with increased stress, such as scrambling for last minute gifts, balancing hectic schedules, and obligations to attend social events that often involve an abundance of delicious food. Those who follow strict diets and food rules may face obstacles that take away from the joy of celebrating with our loved ones. While consistent patterns of eating are more reflective of our health trajectory rather than one night of partying, many of us can still benefit from improving our relationship with food. Therefore, the Intuitive Eating (IE) framework can help bring back the pleasure and satisfaction that food brings in our lives, especially during the holiday season.


IE is a non-dieting approach to health that focuses on respecting your body and trusting your own hunger and fullness cues when eating. This self-care eating framework was created in 1995 by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and currently has a large and growing research base supporting its association with many health benefits. Learn more about the 10 Principles of IE here: https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/.

The following are tips created based on the 10 principles of IE that can help you focus less on the food and more on the fun during the holiday season.

  1. Choose foods that both satisfies you and nourishes your body.

Remove dieting behaviours and give yourself permission to have your favourite foods. Practicing this mentality will take time to establish and maintain, but it will also help take back the power from food, reduce feelings of guilt, and avoid overindulging at holiday gatherings.

  1. Be mindful when eating.

Before you begin eating, take a few breaths to relax the body and check in with your hunger. Notice the sensory experience while chewing, tasting and swallowing your food. Try slowing down your eating and putting your fork down between bites. Check in with your hunger and fullness cues as you eat and give yourself permission to stop or continue eating based on how hungry you are. Reduce triggers of distracted eating at parties by positioning yourself away from the food table. Learn more about mindful eating here: https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/page-1863947.

You can also be mindful of the food choices at gatherings by offering options that nourish your body, such as dishes prepared with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and plant-based proteins. Discover delicious recipes here: https://www.cookspiration.com/.

  1. Honour your hunger with something satisfying.

Reject the mentality of skipping meals to compensate for special holiday treats, as this may cause you to overeat at your next meal. Acknowledge your hunger and satisfy it with a pairing of carbohydrate and protein sources, such as these snacks here (https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Weight-Loss/Healthy-Snack-Ideas-for-Adults.aspx). In addition, avoid drinking on an empty stomach, as alcohol can increase your appetite and trigger overeating.

  1. Engage in movement that you enjoy.

Whether you enjoy structured exercise or another type of movement that pumps up your heart rate, physical activity can help alleviate stress from the holiday season. Move together with your family and friends in fun activities such as sledding, ice skating, hockey, or even shoveling snow. You can also encourage others to move their bodies by gifting physical activity-themed presents, such as a resistance band, ski googles, or a Spikeball set.

  1. Respect your body by establishing good sleep habits.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule that allows your body to rest and prepare for the next day’s exciting holiday activities. Sleep deprivation can also interfere with your hunger and fullness cues, so ensure that you have a good night’s sleep to help improve your relationship with food.

  1. Feel your fullness and give yourself permission to stop eating.

What does being full and satisfied feel like to you? Allow yourself to stop eating when you feel like you’ve had enough. Be prepared to respond to food pushers who insist that you should eat more of their delicious food by practicing politely saying “no thank you” and repeating it, or try the phrase “this is delicious, but I’m full” and offer to take leftovers home when the party is over.

  1. Enjoy quality time with your loved ones!

Find opportunities to connect with your family and friends this holiday season. Remember that the holiday season is a wonderful time to enrich your personal relationships and celebrate with the people you love.

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