How to Eat Mindfully During the Holidays - Good Food Made Simple

How to Eat Mindfully During the Holidays

Nov 13, 2022
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With the holiday season in full-swing — Thanksgiving spreads on the table, Christmas cookies in the oven, and Hanukkah latkes in the frying pan — it’s easy to equate this time of year with fun, family, and a lot of food. While indulging during the holidays is perfectly okay, and we shouldn’t stress about putting certain treats in our bodies, it’s easy to go overboard and lose complete control of how and what we eat.

There’s a way to enjoy the rich and delicious holiday feasts while still being mindful of what we’re putting it into our bodies, and balancing it with fresh, whole foods. By doing this, we won’t have to worry about making any new year’s resolutions around losing weight or getting our eating habits back on track; if we start now, we can exit the holidays and enter the new year feeling better than we do today!

First Up: What Is Mindful Eating?

Before we dive into the holiday health tips and tricks that will allow us to eat more mindfully and feel more in control during the holidays, let’s take a step back to clarify what mindful eating really is.

To do that, let’s take yet another step back and talk about mindless eating. Mindless eating is when you start eating food while distracted — you’re not enjoying the taste or noticing how much you’re consuming. Think: going through a whole bag of potato chips while scrolling your phone and not even realizing it. Mindless eating can lead to weight gain and obesity, along with feelings of anxiety and depression.

On the flip side, mindful eating is when you are paying attention to what you’re feeding your body. You’re enjoying it, too, and eating slowly and with awareness. The best example of mindful eating is to eat a bowl of oatmeal without a laptop or smartphone nearby. Simply notice how each bite tastes, feels, and smells. You’ll most likely eat a lot slower, feel more satisfied, and not feel the need to indulge in a chocolate croissant afterward.

How to Eat Mindfully During the Holidays

Here are some ways to practice mindful eating so you can feel in control, satisfied with your food, and be more confident in your body.

Eat when you’re hungry! This might sound obvious, but it can be a real tough one for us. Before you unravel a blueberry muffin “because it’s 8 am,” tune into your body and figure out if you’re actually hungry. If you’re not, wait until your hunger cues kick in. And once you do start to chow down, eat slow enough so you know when your body is satisfied and you don’t overeat.

Drink a glass of water before every meal. It’s easy for us to confuse hunger with thirst. Before every meal, drink a nice glass of water; not only will it help with digestion, it will also allow your body to absorb nutrients and prevent you from stuffing yourself with too much food. A morning glass of water with lemon in it is also a nice way to jumpstart your digestive track.

Control your portions. During the holidays, there is usually more food on the table than necessary. Before getting a big scoop of everything (we’re looking at you, Thanksgiving dinner) pay attention to portion size.

Reconsider seconds. Speaking of portion size, in addition to going in for too much food, we also love to help ourselves to seconds, or even thirds! Before you dive in for a second serving of mashed potatoes, sit back and take a few deep breaths. Notice if your body is actually still hungry and needs that second helping, and if it doesn’t, say no thanks and make yourself something soothing, like a cup of hot tea.

Keep the electronics away. It’s easy to start eating mindlessly when we’re distracted by our phones, computers, or tv screens. Whenever you eat a meal, whether alone or with a group, turn off any and all electronics and keep ‘em out of sight.

Slow. Down. The best way to eat enough and know when you’re truly satisfied is to eat slowly. This will give your body enough time to send signals to your brain that you have eaten enough, and don’t need three more heaping servings of pecan pie. While you eat slowly, pay attention to how the food really tastes — you’ll be surprised to notice how much more enjoyable that bite really is.

Keep a food diary. In order to truly understand what you’re eating all day long, consider keeping a food journal! This will allow you to track every single thing you eat  — yep, even those handful of M&Ms and roasted peanuts — throughout the day. You might be surprised at how much you eat, especially between meals, and it could help you clean up some habits and start to eat with more awareness and control.

Start and end each day with some fresh. Begin and end your day on a high note. For breakfast, go for a piece of fresh fruit and a spinach scramble bowl over a processed baked good, and end your evening with some herbal tea. If you still feel hungry before hitting the hay, slice up a banana or eat a handful of raw almonds.

Give yourself some wiggle room! This last holiday health tip is the most important one. Remember: It’s okay to not eat perfectly during the holidays. While being mindful is important, you also have to be flexible. Sure, you might not be starving when you go for a second Christmas cookie, and that’s okay. (Just don’t make that a daily habit!) While this shouldn’t be the norm, you have to carve in some small space to stuff yourself silly — my favorite is on Christmas Eve — or else you’ll deprive yourself and be more likely to binge on all the sweets later on. Be mindful when you eat, be kind to yourself when you slip up, and enjoy the holidays for everything they offer.

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