Eating Mindfully through the Holidays

Posted by on Oct 31, 2011 in Mindfulness | Comments Off on Eating Mindfully through the Holidays

Eating Mindfully Through the Holidays


The holidays signify a change in season, but also a time for celebration.  We start off with Halloween, then comes Thanksgiving, Christmas/ Hannukah, and lastly New Years.  We spend more time with friends, family, and also are engaging in larger and more savory meals and treats than we might normally have within a given week.  While the holidays can be fun, they often bring some stress due to the additional gatherings, people, and food in an already busy life and schedule.  When we start to feel off balance, we usually move into adding more to the list (more food, people to the table, gifts, more events, etc.).  However, what we often REALLY need is Less not More.
These following tips will allow you to simplify the holidays in 10 steps.

If you can create healthy habits now during the holidays, you will actually be giving yourself a buffer against this stress.  When things start to feel like they are ramping up or the feel of overwhelm begins to percolate, try checking in and asking “Is this too much?” When we pause we can understand what is needed and make wise choices in the moment.  This pause allows us to neither move into overindulgence or deprivation. The practice is choosing moderation and from here, you realize that you have everything you need.

1. Stick to your Schedule

One of the best things you can do during the holidays is try and stick to a schedule.  When things become more hectic in our lives it is important to have a place that can offer balance and stability.  A consistent sleeping, healthy eating, and exercise schedule will help keep you grounded through the holidays.
Try This– Eat breakfast, plan for meals, and snacks throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and blood sugar stabilized.  This will allow you to be less prone to all the office and home goodies that are prolific this time of year.

2. Breathe before Eating

We often move from one task right to the other without pausing or taking a breath.  Food is something that can offer comfort and nourishment.  By pausing, we can slow down and allow for a more calm transition to our meals.
Try This– While sitting in your chair take 5-10 deep belly breaths in and out before you start your meal.

3. Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating is the simple process of slowing down at meal times.  This experience helps to nurture the focus of quality over quantity in our foods.
Try This– After mindful breathing and while sitting in front of your next meal allow yourself to see all the colors of the food, smell your food, and then slowly savor one bite a time.  See if you can chew one bite for 1 minute and then spend the next few bites in the same way.  Allow yourself to experience the taste, flavors, textures, and how much enjoyment you are receiving from your food.  You may just start off with a few mindful bites and realize this is much more enjoyable than inhaling a meal.

4. Tune In

During the holidays, life can often feel like there are even more distractions.  The practice of tuning into how hungry or full we are will allow us to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full.
Try This– Before filling up your plate, take some slow breaths and check into how physically hungry you are on a scale of 1-10.  1 being that you aren’t hungry at all and 10 being that you are very hungry.  While eating a meal, check in after a few minutes of eating to see how full you are on a scale of 1-10.  1 being that you aren’t full and 10 that you are very full.  It often takes about 20 minutes for our bodies to tell our minds that we are full.  Just one more incentive to eat more mindfully.

5. Mindful Choice

During the holidays we will have many treats and food gatherings that may not involve the normal foods we would choose for ourselves.  Often these foods can be more savory in their flavors and higher in calories.  If maintaining health and balance is what you seek, then it can be important to show healthy discernment in your food choices.
Try This– At your next food gathering, survey the food options before you make your choice. First, take a plate so you know how much you will actually be eating (vs. just eating and walking around the room while being social).  Knowing that you can’t have everything, what would be a good combination of some healthier items and maybe 1 or 2 richer items.  Invite yourself to eat only what you are really enjoying, checking into hunger and fullness levels, and even leaving some food on your plate.  Allow yourself to be mindful of what you are choosing will allow you to be able to still eat healthfully while also getting to enjoy some items you really like in moderation.   This is a great way to approach the holiday meals.

6. Feel Your Feelings

During the holidays, we may find that the busyness of the season can leave us feeling more emotional and even agitated.  Instead of ignoring or running away from our feelings, we can find relief simply by naming and then accepting what is going on.  If we don’t acknowledge our feelings, they can fester and grow and instead of eating when we are physically hungry, we may react to stress or feelings by emotionally eating.
Try This– When you feel something, label it, accept it, bring compassion to whatever you are feeling, and then ask yourself, “What do I need right now that would best support me?”  It may feel silly at first because its a new behavior, but continue practicing it.  Taking time to get to know yourself and your feelings in the moment will allow you to respond wisely vs. moving into reactivity.

7. Enjoy Your Surroundings

Make sure that in the daily tasks and responsibilities, you don’t forget to take a look around you and see all the beauty.  It may be noticing a child playing, the fall leaves changing color, or simply noticing all the abundance you have in your life.
Try This– When spending time with others at a meal.  Instead of putting all your focus on the food, take breaks between bites, let your company and your desire to listen, see, or be seen be part of your experience of the meal.  You may feel family meal time is much more pleasant this way.

8. Be Kind to Yourself

If you find that you ate a little more than you wanted to at a holiday function be kind and recognize it for what it is a slip.  The nicer you can be to yourself, the easier it will be to turn a slip into a positive and growing experience.  You may ask yourself what you can learn from this and then let that be wisdom you take into the next situation.
Try This– After any of these possible situations (a slip, eating too much at one meal, or not planning the best) see if you can incorporate more planning, more exercise, or healthy food preparation so that you ensure your success the next day.

9. Create a Nourishing List

Everyone experiences and defines things in their life as nourishing.  One person may find having a cup of tea in the morning nourishing, while another likes yoga, or massage.  See if you can create a list of 10 things you find nourishing that you could implement into your week.  The more self care you can implement into your week, the easier you will be able to cope with events and interactions that don’t go so smoothly.  By integrating these activities into your day and week, you are creating space and support just for you.
Try This– Aim to do 1 small nourishing activity a day and maybe 1 or 2 larger nourishing activities a week.  As long as you label it an activity as nourishing then it is.  🙂

10. Mindful Cooking

Edward Brown, the author of The Tassajara Bread Book says, “Cooking is whole being engaged-mind, body, and emotions.”  Cooking can be a great joy and healthy endeavor during the holidays.  See if you can be in the moment and just allow yourself to be more connected to the process vs. the end result.  This may simply look like feeling the water as you wash potatoes and then actually noticing what it feels like to cut potatoes, the texture, the smell, etc.

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