Eat Mindfully During the Holidays

For me, eating during the holidays is ANYTHING but mindful. There’s always tons of food, everyone around me is eating, and at least for my family, it seems as if every winter holiday is centered around eating.

Say Christmas for instance. You eat light in the morning in anticipation of “dinner” that starts around lunchtime. Or, if you're like my family, we eat later in the evening but we spend the whole day watching football and snacking on appetizers. And when dinner rolls around…sorry Mom but there is NO MORE room in my stomach for your delicious-looking ham. Sorry, not sorry.

So, what is mindful eating, and what are some strategies for incorporating mindful eating during the holidays?

Mindful Eating Basics

The basics behind mindful eating are pretty straightforward. It’s a technique used to help gain control over how and what you eat, and it is actually based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a thought process that helps you recognize your emotions and feelings in the moment, and helps you feel more connected to your body. Mindful eating is similar, and it incorporates the idea of mindfulness to bring attention to your eating habits, your experiences while eating, cravings, and biological cues.

Mindful Eating Principles:

  • Listening to hunger cues (growling stomach, stomach cramps/pains) and satiety cues (the feeling of fullness)

  • Eating only until you’re full

  • Understanding the difference between hunger cues and non-hunger triggers to eating

  • Eating slowly, engaging taste, smells, and textures when eating

  • Being appreciative of your food

Mindfulness and eating mindfully can be very challenging for most individuals, especially in our fast paced world. Distractions are all around us, and often, mealtimes are filled with them – maybe you’re eating while watching TV, or eating while scrolling on your social media. Have you ever finished a whole tub of popcorn at the movie theaters before the movie even starts? It’s so easy to do because we’re often too distracted to notice how much we’re eating.

Without being mindful, we’re not able to listen to our natural hunger cues. For example, if you eat too fast, our natural signal for fullness may not arrive until you’ve already finished that big tub of popcorn. Being more aware of natural hunger/satiety cues can also help you distinguish between true hunger and emotional hunger. Emotional hunger can be caused by specific triggers, and cues you to turn to food even when you aren’t actually hungry. An example would be eating out of boredom, sadness, anger, or feelings of anxiety, among others.

Eating Mindfully During the Holidays

Having a better grasp on what mindful eating is, it’s no surprise that we struggle even more to eat mindfully during the holidays. Holidays can also be a trigger for emotions that may cause us to overeat and puts our emotional hunger into overdrive, like holiday stress, or feeling sad or depressed.

Knowing your emotional hunger cues is an important way to overcome overeating. If you commonly overeat due to anxiety, then you know to tackle another task besides eating when you’re in a high-stress situation. Knowing your emotional hunger cues is the first step in being more aware of how your emotions affect your eating habits.

Here are some general tips to help conquer holiday overeating:

Other Tips:

  • Don’t multitask while you eat. Put your phone away, turn off the TV, and focus on the food you’re eating.

  • Eat off a plate rather than snacking around the appetizer table. Being conscious of how much you’re putting on your plate can help prevent overeating.

  • Keep sugar free peppermints in your pocket as a way to prevent eating too fast. Feel the need for a second helping? Wait until the peppermint dissolves in your mouth before going back for seconds. This can delay time and help your natural satiety cues catch up. Still feeling hungry and need seconds? Go for it!

  • Take a walk with a family member. Going for a walk can do several things. It’s a good excuse to step away from the appetizer table, and it can help naturally decrease stress.

  • Get your family involved in a mindful eating exercise. Have everyone identify one thing about the food their eating -- the soft texture of the turkey, the tangy flavor of the gravy this year, or the strong smell of the Brussel sprouts!

Happy Holidays!

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