Mindful Eating to Help You Through the Holidays and Beyond
holiday season. That being said, this time of year can wreak havoc on your health routine. The sudden prevalence of cakes, pies, hard ciders and other foods/beverages that are high in addictive sugars can affect your immediate health, as well as how you eat entirely. Sugar has e’re fans of the myriad festive, seasonal drinks and foods that come with the addictive properties thanks to its efficacy at releasing dopamine and opioids in the brain. This circumvents our ability to eat in a controlled manner. In other words, if you’ve ever thought that your food consumption seems to increase as you eat less healthfully and more often, you’re correct! Enter mindful eating. This is one of the best tools for staying on track with our dietary plans during the holidays. Of course, you can implement these tools and tricks any time of year, but they’re especially helpful during a season that is so very food-centric.
What do we mean by eating mindfully?
Mindfulness is defined as “the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.” In other words, you’re bringing awareness to whatever it is you’re doing. In the case of eating, this means many things. Eating mindfully is beneficial for so many reasons. You digest your food better when you’re chewing it more and eating more slowly, which in turn helps you find more enjoyment in your food.
Mindful eating asks us to slow down, savor, and essentially exit the trap of fast, on-the-run compulsive eating behavior that often happens when we’re faced with a tray of fresh gingerbread cookies.*
Read on for several tips on how to eat more mindfully during the holidays and to make it stick after the season ends. The overarching theme of these suggestions is to bring attention and awareness to how you eat. You can implement some of these specific strategies to make eating mindfully a practical, approachable affair.
1. Slow down. The first step to doing anything more mindfully is to bring awareness to the activity. Remembering to do this in the first place takes practice, and that itself is where the ‘mindfulness’ comes in. In terms of applying this mindfulness, one of the best places to get started is to slow down while eating. Oftentimes we are rushing about our meals, eating quickly over answering emails or between to-dos. Make eating your “to-do” for the duration of the time you’re eating. You may be thinking, “well, the holidays are already all about food. I thought the point was to eat less?” This isn’t about eating less per se, but about how you eat. Notice if you’re stuffing yourself between getting a word in at the holiday cocktail party. Try to step aside and eat slowly, then talk. Notice if you’re rushing eating in order to socialize. Try to eat more slowly and really savor each bite. Slowing down is the best way to give your food your full attention This brings us to our next tip…
2. Take smaller bites. An easy way to eat more slowly and mindfully is to take smaller bites. If you notice that you’re rushing or overeating, taking tiny bites is a great way to hack your behavior. Taking smaller bites makes it easier for you to chew, which in turn improves digestion.
3. Notice your hunger. Naturally, a bit of indulgence and eating for the sake of eating comes with the season. Flex your mindfulness muscles to bring awareness to just how hungry you are before having that second serving of mashed potatoes. The holidays make it easy to forget that we’re eating to fuel our bodies. It also helps not to arrive famished to the party so you don’t overeat, especially if you know if much of it’s going to be sugary and unhealthy. If you’re working to stick to a specific diet, or perhaps even have to for health reasons, have a protein-heavy snack on hand.
4. Be easy on yourself. The general theme of bringing mindfulness to how we eat includes how we talk to ourselves in our heads. Are you especially hard on yourself this time of year? How can you be more mindful of your inner narrative around food? We are human. The holidays are festive. If you overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it.*
5. Introduce a meditation practice. If all of these tips sound great, but you struggle with implementing them it may be time to try a meditation practice. Meditation has been shown to improve your awareness and mindfulness. A short daily practice will work wonders for your ability to slow down and notice your habits.
Mindful eating for the holidays doesn’t have to be overwhelming! We hope these practical tips are helpful not just this time of year, but on a daily basis!
*If you’re concerned about any disordered eating, please see a doctor!