A Functional Medicine Practitioner’s Guide To Christmas Eating

Dec 15, 2021

How To Stay on Track with ‘Healthy’ Eating and Still Enjoy Christmas

Traditionally, Christmas is all about festivities and indulging. The creamy pavs, the punches, the big Christmas puddings, BBQs, roasts…the endless amounts of food and drinks. Oh my, oh yummy-my.

We’ve had a pretty massive (almost) two years with COVID and lockdowns and restrictions and being cut off from family and friends. Now more than ever I feel the vibe in the air that people really want to let their hair down and just enjoy themselves this Christmas.

And that is TOTALLY fine. This article is not about me coming along as Penny Perfectionist, telling you all you can only eat carrot sticks and hummus for Christmas. But I do want to show you that you can still achieve your eating goals AND enjoy Christmas at the same time - whatever that looks like for you. This is especially for my clients (or anyone else out there), who are currently in the middle of healing their body systems, where specific foods and healing diets are part of your treatment plan.


My Own Holiday Eating Journey

When I started my journey into healthy, whole food eating (9 years back now), I had the best of intentions to stick to my healthy eating goals, even in the face of Christmas, birthdays, holidays, and even the weekends. Yet time and time again I kept getting tempted by all the ‘old foods’ I used to eat and love (sugar, cakes, and cookies have always been my weakness!). 

After I’d thoroughly binged out, boy did my body know it! I would often feel inflamed for up to 2-weeks later - mucousy, acne beak-outs, achy, crabby, and I very often came down with yet another cold or flu. 

I would reason to myself that I ‘worked so hard’ to eat healthy the majority of the time, so I could let myself have a little (or big!) treat every now and then. Yet for me, personally, many of the ‘treaty’ foods I was consuming really flared up symptoms. I also felt heavy waves of guilt and shame every time I ate ‘off-plan’. I even used to sneak food from functions, and eat it out of sight of others, because I was so embarrassed that I wasn’t living up to the ‘health-nut’ identity I had created for myself.


It Takes 5-Years To Overcome Food Addictions

Food Dependency expert, Lynn Elliot-Harding, says that it can take (up to) 5-years to overcome food addictions if you’re actively working at it. Overcoming food addictions and emotional eating often requires balancing body systems (you can check out my article about this here), as well as emotional and spiritual recovery. 

This really put things into perspective for me. I noticed that 1-year into my own functional medicine treatment plan, which involved deep healing my body systems, that things changed physically for me. I wasn’t craving sugar, I wasn’t stress-eating, I had more control over what I ate, and the choices I made. The emotional, cultural and spiritual recovery that occurs when creating deep changes in eating patterns took much longer. 

And it was at the 5-year mark, where I no longer succumbed to binging out on all the food. I had established clear boundaries about what I chose to eat, what made my body feel good, and what brought my soul joy. And at the 5-year mark, I was able to happily live within my love-made boundaries. (It still kind of trips me out that I can go to lavish Christmas events, and not be tempted at the slightest to eat all the cakes, slices, and puddings!).


My Top Tips To Stay on Track With Your Nutrition Goals

Ok, so now you’re probably thinking - how do I get to this point, Filly?! We’ll be diving deep into this topic with our Root Cause functional medicine membership clients, during our next coaching call (which I’m SUPER excited about!). If you’re not a client and want some quick pointers, here are my top tips for successful Christmas eating, even if you’re only in the early stages of changing eating habits.

  1. Create boundaries - Decide right now what you will say YES to, what you will say NO to, and what you will say MAYBE to, in small amounts. For example, my big YES’s are any meals, desserts, or snacks that are made from real food, including my yummy vegan raw treats, fruit salad, roast meals, and the like. My big NO’s are anything that contains dairy (this is a big inflammatory trigger for me), which when you start looking at ingredients lists, cancels out a lot of unhealthy packaged stuff, as well as a lot of homemade desserts.  My MAYBE’s, in small amounts, would be things like meals or treats made with gluten or sugar, but only IF they contain no dairy. Which again, limits these (lesser - for me) inflammatory foods, because often dairy is mixed with sugar and gluten. These boundaries suit me well - my body feels fine after Christmas events, and I still have a bit of flexibility to eat some delish foods I might not usually eat. You might also decide you want NO boundaries during Christmas - which is also fine, as long as you are emotionally and physically happy with that decision and the consequences this may bring.
  2. Portion control - After you set your boundaries, decide on portion control. If you have any YES or MAYBE foods that may cause some issues, you are likely going to want to figure out at what portion you can eat a specific food, without it causing major issues. Portion control is important if you suffer from gut issues like heartburn, bloating, or constipation; also if you’re concerned with putting on weight.
  3. Take your own healthy foods to functions - This was a winner for me when I was in my initial 5-year phase of recovering from food addictions. I would always fail if I turned up to a function and there was ‘nothing’ I could eat. Finding delicious meals, treats, and desserts that aligned with my eating goals, which also made me feel like I was eating something festive and special, helped me stay on track.
  4. If, Then Planning - This is a GREAT tool that you can use to map out what exactly you will do if you are tempted to (or do) go off track with your eating goals. You can download our If, Then Planning Guide here (it’s free).
  5. Emotional Eating LIVE Webclass - And finally, we’re holding a free LIVE “Physical Imbalances That Lead To Emotional Eating” Webclass TONIGHT (Wed 15 Dec, 7 pm), to really help you with the steps you need to take to overcome emotional eating and food addictions. You can register for this web class here.

As one of my colleagues, Joni Seeto (Binge Eating Therapist), put up on her socials the other week: ’Tis the season to be jolly - not the season to be riddled with food anxiety and body hate.

Amen to that! ♥


Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.


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