While the holiday season is still a little different this year, one of the things that has really been challenging clients is Christmas treat cravings FOMO (fear of missing out). They’re having chocolates at work, holiday themed lattes on the drive, and diving in to all the goodies and cookies that have been baked at home. There is nothing wrong with enjoying festive treats, but if you’re finding it hard to balance with your goal of feeling healthier and eating well, you’re not alone!

You can find a healthier (and still enjoyable) balance between Christmas treats and seasonal cravings and honouring your physical body.

Step 1: Focus on treats you really love

Christmas cravings can run away with you with the sheer variety of treats being pushed. Planning on cutting out all sugar or not eating any cookies will likely set you up for failure. That’s because harsh restriction actually triggers overeating. Your brain doesn’t trust that it will get enjoyable treats consistently so you end up gobbling them down as soon as your “willpower” breaks. The fix is to actually CHOOSE treats, and focus in on the ones you really love.

Take a second and reflect; Which treats do you really look forward to? Which ones do you totally savour and enjoy? And more importantly, which ones are just okay or not really up your alley? Get clear on where you’d like to be able to say a resounding yes, and where a polite no thanks or re-gift is in order. Healthy eaters don’t eat “just because someone offered” and honour their boundaries by not eating to placate other people (we’ve all got a food pusher or two in our lives).

Step 2: Manage stress and sleep (don’t skip this one!)

Stress, whether physical or emotional, ramps up our cravings and hunger hormones. Same goes for even a little bit of a sleep deficit. I know these guys feel out of our control, but do what you can to support yourself here.

Sleep: Turn the phone off or leave it out of your bedroom so you don’t scroll before bed, read a book for a few minutes each night to help your brain relax, reactivate that meditation app on your phone and commit to  5 minutes per day, you get the gist!

Stress: Move your body, it helps both the physical and emotional drivers of stress. Find daily non-food self care; baths, books, zoom or phone calls with a friend, finding a few minutes of alone time, crafting, getting outside for a few minutes, cleaning/organizing (if that’s your jam), playing a phone, board or video game, cuddling up with a pet or partner….whatever gives your brain a little boost. You may also want to consider if you’re getting enough Vitamin D and Magnesium to support your mood and nervous system, but check with your Dietitian or Doc before supplementing (especially if you have health conditions or medications). A solid stress reduction plan should make those Christmas cravings more manageable.

Step 3: Build up non-food holiday spirit activities

Sometimes the FOMO is in part because we don’t want to miss the FEELING we get when we enjoy holiday treats. Nostalgia, connection, enjoyment are all fantastic ways we connect with this time of year. Curb cravings by making time to stoke that holiday spirit with activities that don’t have anything to do with food.

  • Decorating
  • Christmas crafts
  • Writing cards or sending annual updates to your friends and family
  • Board games with the family
  • Getting outside to enjoy the weather and changing nature
  • Cheesy Christmas movies (this is one of my favourites, they’re awful and I love them)
  • Drive around to see the lights in your neighbourhood

I’m sure there are tons of others! It’s been a hard year, so channeling as much joy and fun as possible helps our nervous system relax and recover, lowering cravings and creating fun memories in the process.

Make sure to take time to savour and delight in any Christmas treats you do have guilt free. Enjoying them makes you human, not unhealthy! Need a strategy to turn cravings “off” instead of nagging you –try this!

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