Joyful Mindful Holiday Eating
Tips abound for how to partake in all the delicious holiday season foods, without gaining 10 lbs or tossing your health goals aside until the new year. You've likely seen or heard the following before:
Don’t go to a party hungry, eat a small snack beforehand
Choose your splurges wisely - survey all the options first before making your choices
Plan ahead, offer to bring a healthy option
Be mindful that holiday beverages such as eggnog, hot chocolate, and cocktails carry a generous dose of extra calories
Don't stand next to the food table where you'll be more tempted to continuously graze
Hold a drink in your right (or dominant hand) so you are less likely to grab food
Use smaller plates or glasses
Make lighter or healthier versions of family favourites
Chew gum while baking to avoid tasting or nibbling
Keep Christmas baking in the freezer - out of sight out of mind
Many are helpful and effective, but I want to offer an even simpler option. Mindful eating.
Mindful eating is so helpful to avoid overeating, overindulging, or heeding the fear of missing out thoughts that tell us to go ahead and eat it all now and make up for it come January.
The essentials of mindful eating include paying attention to your senses, your surroundings and especially your thoughts.
Eat with all your senses
Use your eyes to observe and appreciate not just the details of the food itself but also of the way the table is set, how the food is presented, and any additional festive decorations in the space.
Use your ears to listen for the sounds around you; the buzz of conversation, music playing, tinkling of glasses or clattering of plates and possibly even sizzling or bubbling sounds from the food itself.
Use your nose to note the delicious smells and aromas. Maybe it's the turkey roasting, your mom's famous cinnamon buns, grandma's sugar cookies or the sweet and spicy fragrance of mulled wine.
Use your body sensations to notice how hungry or full you might be, the temperature in the room, your feet grounded on the floor.
Use your taste buds to savor and enjoy the food. Pause to discern the textures, temperature and flavours. Can you identify a unique ingredient or spice?
Observe your surroundings
Take note of where you are, who you are with, and what else might be going on around you. How are these things contributing to your overall enjoyment and pleasure? In what ways might they be encouraging behaviour you want to avoid such as overeating or eating just because it's there?
Notice your thoughts
What is your inner dialogue? What stories are you believing or getting caught up in? “It's the holidays...” “It would be rude to not eat something...” “I really want to, but I shouldn't...”
Let go of all those thoughts, and instead get into the holiday spirit and intentionally cultivate an attitude of gratitude and appreciation. While this is a good thing to do all year round, it's especially relevant at holiday celebrations intended to spread goodwill and cheer. What can you be thankful for and appreciate about this particular situation or event? How might you express that appreciation? Who can you share that feeling with?
A bonus of mindful eating is that it's always available to you regardless of where you find yourself - no need to plan ahead. And you can do it the moment you think of it, no need to wait!
This holiday season allow mindful eating to slow you down, help you pay attention and create the opportunity to pause. Then, use that pause to connect with appreciation for those with whom you are celebrating and you'll naturally consume less while experiencing more joy and happiness.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.