Have yourself a guilt-free Christmas

By Orna O' Brien Nutrition News   |   17th Dec 2021

Irish Heart Foundation dietitian Orna O’Brien on navigating harmful diet talk during the festive season.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but its also a time when we are  bombarded by conflicting food and diet messages. On one hand, we are encouraged to buy lots and over-indulge, while on the other, come 01 January we are being pushed on the ‘new-year, new you’ bandwagon.

The reality is that whether you are living with overweight, obesity, any type of eating disorder or none of the above, Christmas can be a profoundly triggering and weight stigmatising time. This year, give yourself the gift of a guilt-free Christmas by being mindful of how you speak to yourself and those around you.

Tune out the diet talk and food judgement

Remember you do not have to stay in a conversation that is making you feel bad about yourself.

You can shut the conversation down by:

If you are lucky enough to have a Christmas break, it’s a great opportunity to practice a little extra self-care.


It’s worth remembering that 56 per cent of the Irish population is living with overweight or obesity, and more than 188,000 people in Ireland will suffer from an eating disorder at some stage in their lives. So, even if you aren’t usually triggered around Christmas, try to bring awareness to your own language and unconscious biases, and avoid commenting on physical appearance or food choices.

Listen to your body

Food ‘rules’ like restrictive eating and labelling certain foods as ‘bad’ separate us from our own intuitive hunger and satiety cues. Remember that you alone have the right to decide if you want seconds or to say no if you are feeling satisfied. You alone have control over whether to curl up with a Christmas movie, or go for a short walk to stretch your legs. Be present and try bringing a little curiosity and mindfulness to the moment – what is your body telling you?

Prioritise self-care

If you are lucky enough to have a Christmas break, it’s a great opportunity to practice a little extra self-care. I don’t mean a 3-day spa retreat, but the important foundations of sleep, rest and recharge.

Boost your mental and physical health by catching up on lost sleep and aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night. With the luxury of a little extra time over Christmas, you can create a calming bedtime ritual without screens, caffeine or alcohol.

Busy routines and workdays throughout the year can make it difficult to be physically active. Aim to be active over Christmas for pleasure and not punishment, i.e., to burn calories so you ‘earn’ the big dinner later. Think of the feeling of tired legs from a walk in the hills, coast or woodlands while you settle in to watch a Christmas movie. Why not enjoy one of our Slí na Sláinte walking routes, partake in an organised supportive activity like Parkrun or walk around your local Christmas market.

Recharge your joie de vivre by spending some time doing activities that nourish you, be that reading a book, having a thought-provoking discussion with a friend, practicing yoga, doing an art project with the kids, or even an impromptu karaoke session at home to your favourite Christmas hits – in short do what makes you happy.

The few days of indulging at Christmas will not make a huge difference to your overall health and wellbeing.


Practice gentle nutrition

The few days of indulging at Christmas will not make a huge difference to your overall health and wellbeing. Rather than restricting yourself, aim to keep up some of your healthy habits that make you feel good and that you’re proud of.

For example:

This year, choose to tune out the diet talk and into your body, by practising self-care and gentle nutrition.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and fulfilling Christmas.


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Christmas diet dietitian exercise healthy eating nutrition

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