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Tips and ideas to help you to look forward to the festive season without worrying about your waistline

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Since the supermarkets have been promoting all the Christmas goodies; mince pies, huge tins of chocolates, brandy butter, Stilton the size of a hatbox, (I could go on and on…) I've noticed that women are bracing themselves for the 'season of putting on weight'. All around me I hear women politely declining the tasty 'fattening' food in favour of the low fat, low carb, low taste options, watching their waistlines and determined not to put on the obligatory half stone by Boxing Day.

It got me thinking about just how differently I approach Christmas these days. I love the mouth watering food and thoroughly enjoy all the dinners and buffet parties, but there was a time when they filled me with dread. I'd start out determined to be good, to eat sensibly allowing myself the odd treat. I was convinced all I needed was willpower. But I never seemed to have quite enough of it and I would end up overindulging my way through Christmas knowing I'd be back on a diet by January 2nd, no excuses!

How many times have you tried to "be good" and managed pretty well for a while only to find yourself running out of willpower and "giving in"? It's usually when we're faced with dinner parties or scrumptious buffets, the 3 for 2 offer on the chocolate bars at the till in the supermarket…and last but not least: the dreaded Christmas festivities? You may think it's all due to lack of willpower, that if you could just be "stronger" and more determined you wouldn't lapse.

Well think again! It's not a question of willpower or determination; it's a proven scientific fact that depriving ourselves through dieting or 'being good' leads to overeating. Research has shown that dieting or 'being good' is totally counterproductive and that we actually end up eating more than we would have done in the first place! The concept is very simple: knowing that you can't have certain food makes them irresistible. It is also known as the "forbidden fruit theory". Well, I know that feeling very well, I have been there, done that, many, many times. But that's in the past and if you too would like to discover how to really enjoy Christmas without worrying about your waistline … read on! How to deal with Christmas Lunch and those big slap up meals?

Manage your hunger: If you know that you are going to have a large meal and it's going to be food you like, plan to be hungry when the time comes. If you get hungry beforehand just have a snack to take the edge off your hunger. That way you'll still have plenty of room to enjoy a lovely meal. Don't be tempted to skip a meal or go hungry, you will be so ravenous by the time the big meal comes that you are likely to eat too fast. You won't enjoy it as much , you'll miss the signals that tell you when you're full and you'll end up eating too much.  Make it a feast: Choose what you want to eat, don't deprive yourself of anything, forget calories, fat, carbs, just choose the foods you really like. Eat the foods you want, not the foods you think you ought to. If you don't eat what you really want, you cannot be satisfied. Eat slowly, give yourself time to appreciate every the food, put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. Every now and then, stop eating and ask yourself how satisfied you feel. When you have had enough, STOP!  Be kind to yourself: … and if you end up eating anyway, don't beat yourself up or feel like a failure.

Keep working at it. The more you notice what's going on, the easier it becomes to change. It's not because you slip up once that you have to give up altogether. How to cope with buffet parties …the ones where you keep picking at all those lovely looking mini things. If you are feeling nervous, shy, anxious, very excited or bored stiff, picking repeatedly at the food might be your usual way of easing the tension. So aim to relax and put these tips into action…  Take a good look at the buffet and then select what you are going to eat.  Choose carefully, pick your favourites. ? Put the food on a plate.  If possible, find somewhere quiet to sit, with people whose company you enjoy.  Eat mindfully, focus on the food and savour each little delicacy!

The Festive Season can be a stressful few weeks – take some time out for yourself to relax, unwind and de-stress.  Write into to your diary several 10 or 20 minute slots when you can take time for yourself. You could have a bath, go for a walk, have a quiet cup of tea – whatever you do, do it alone. ? If you have one of those fancy mobiles, programme these 'appointments' into the calendar and set an alarm so you won't forget. ? Find a notebook to write in and jot down your thoughts and feelings. Writing is a good way to offload.

We all need time to ourselves, by taking this time for yourself you are filling your cup which will mean you have more to give to others too. Find other ways to nourish yourself If we only ate because we are hungry it would be quite straightforward to stick to our resolve. Fact is, we eat for lots of other reasons too. Eating is a very useful way to avoid feelings and difficult situations, and Christmas is full of these! So, when you find yourself reaching for food and you know you're not hungry, see if you can stop for just one minute and see what's going on – are you stressed out because your whole family has descended are you tired from doing too much or feeling lonely and left out… whatever it is, give yourself a couple of minutes to acknowledge what you're feeling and see if you can respond to the real need, which you know the food won't satisfy anyway: take 5 minute break from it all, ask someone for a hand, you don't have to do it all yourself, call a friend for a chat...


By Sophie Boss Author of Beyond Chocolate: How to stop yo-yo dieting and lose we
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Sophie Boss Author of Beyond Chocolate: How to stop yo-yo dieting and lose we

Author: Author of Beyond Chocolate: How to stop yo-yo dieting and lose we

Biography: Beyond Chocolate wasn’t created by a marketing team in the headquarters of a dieting industry giant, nor is it the “brain child” of an ex actress or of some obscure doctor or “Professor”. Beyond Chocolate is the fruit of two women’s determined quest for a long term solution. Serial dieters for many years, sisters Sophie and Audrey beat their body and weight demons by looking at the root of the problem. As a psychotherapist, workshop leader and coach Sophie Boss has the skills and insights to teach women why being slim is not the answer, just a welcome by-product of learning to have a healthy and satisfying relationship with food and your body. She is quite clear though, that her real qualifications for doing this work are that she has enormous experience of being an overweight, unhappy woman with an unhelpful relationship with food, who has found a new way of relating to food and her body that is healthy and that works.

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