Over a third of all adults in Ireland (36%) say that they regularly suffer from stress. Many are working more hours and taking less time off, which in turn means we are hearing of an increase in mental and physical health challenges. When work is overwhelming and your work-life balance feels out of whack, it’s time to take the holiday and embrace every moment of it, so that you can literally soak up all those health benefits.
There are many health benefits to going on a holiday
However in the run up to the break, emotions, pressure and expectations can be high.
Stress can trigger unhelpful food related behaviours. This can impact how you can hear your hunger cues and increase food intake beyond comfort levels. We tend to seek out calorie dense foods and the literature also shares that we are far more likely to eat more in response to stress when we are restricting foods, aka dieting.
At Ciall Health, we view the world predominantly through the lens of food and eating behaviours, so that is why we are sharing with you Three Tips to take the stress out of eating on your holidays.
You won’t need to do any mental maths when deciding what to eat, you can rely on your natural body cues.
1. Discover your intuition.
Holidays can be the perfect time for you to become aware of body cues for eating. These are your natural biological cues—what you and I know as feelings of hunger, fullness, satisfaction. Bodily sensations that signal that you are experiencing hunger include stomach grumbling, maybe a slight headache, increased thoughts of food or indeed persistent distraction from tasks.
When you are on holiday your nervous system will spend more time in rest and digest!
This means that:
- phone-calls or emails won’t distract you from hearing this body cue or
- rigid rules might have you denying that you’re feeling hungry or
- apprehensive thoughts might make you deny these hunger cues.
If you recognise this as being true for you, then use this as a time to focus on recognising biological hunger and making time to eat, and really notice how it impacts your body.
Eating is a human need and should be prioritized. Remember eating is self-care and body-respect when you commit the time to have a meal that is both physically and psychologically satisfying.
2. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat before you go.
In the run up to a holiday, we can be very tempted to reduce our calorie intake in an attempt to feel comfortable while away, indeed to fit into the ‘perfect beach body’. Avoiding your food in the period before you go away will lead to feelings of deprivation and cravings and ultimately you may notice that you engage in overeating.
Intuitive Eating teaches that in giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, removing the ‘can’t’ and ‘should’ verbiage from the eating experience, in turn removes urgency and intensity for eating foods that have been forbidden.
- Practice allowing yourself to eat the foods you like without shame or judgment.
- No food group is more important than another. Make the Caesar salad equivalent to fish and chips, or fruits equivalent to ice cream.
- The most effective guide is to observe how your body feels when eating, notice what is satisfying to you, both in the moment but in the hours after you have eaten.
This interrupts the cycle of guilt about the foods eaten and creates opportunities of choice at every new eating experience.
3. Focus on food as nourishment.
As important as it is to fuel our physical hunger, it is also important to feed our heart hunger. Think of times when you really put an effort into creating a meal, how excited is your palate when you smell the food, taste the different flavours and textures. When we adopt this flexible attitude and mindset, it allows eating to be intuitive, free from food rules and nourishing for the brain, body and soul.
As you let go of the ‘health watch’ for a couple of days, allow yourself to focus on what foods feel nourishing to you. You might be familiar of your inner rebel getting the upper hand on holiday however you could choose to see it as a great opportunity to practice protecting your food boundaries by refusing to allow external influences to tell you what and when to eat.
Remember that all foods have nutrition to offer the body. When the narrative around food is that it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’; ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’, over time, eating becomes stressful. This creates black and white thinking that can keep you stuck in the cycle of experiencing shame and guilt after eating.
During the holiday season we want to encourage you to embrace the unique flavours and the food traditions with your family, friends and the communities you visit. This can be done by giving yourself permission to seek pleasure in your food. Leave the ‘food police’ at home and ask yourself “what sounds good to me today?”.
Nourish your body and mind with helpful thoughts that create a peaceful relationship with food. Practising this way of eating has been shown to improve wellbeing over the longer term.