mindful eating

Every year, the holidays arrive with a stream of events, parties, and dinners. Of course this means there’s an endless spread of delicious food and drink in which to indulge! However, along with the festivities also comes a slew of health news discussing how you can avoid weight gain over the holidays, and encouraging you not to overeat, to choose a smaller plate, to eat before you arrive at the party, and to not to indulge too much in the food.

For some, the holidays are a trigger for overeating. Events, buffets, and family stress can be a catalyst for eating more than what they usually do throughout the year. However, for others who may struggle with thoughts of restriction around food, the holidays may be a time where they battle with allowing themselves to be free to eat a wider variety of foods. For some, the fear of the classic “holiday weight gain” is sharp and can be all-consuming, tainting otherwise joyful times with family and friends with negative thoughts, self-doubt and guilt.

There is no doubt that food is an integral part of many aspects of the holiday season. It is wrapped up in times of celebration, tradition, love, and family. That’s why we are taking the time to discuss how people from any background can reconnect with their healthiest relationship with the food they eat. One way to work toward this is by adopting a perspective of mindful eating, a way of viewing the food we eat in a way that promotes health for both mind and body.

holiday buffet

Mindful eating is not a synonym for restriction during the holidays. Instead, it is a perspective you and anyone should adopt when they eat, one that helps you connect to relationship with your food and to the experience of eating your meal.

Mindful eating is based on the basic principle of mindfulness: the notion that you should strive to ground your thoughts and senses to the present moment. The notion of mindful eating is not based upon principles of eating less, but instead encompasses the idea of remaining present while you eat so you can enjoy your meal and the experience encompassing it to the fullest.

What does mindful eating really mean for everyone during the holidays? By remember these principles, you can motivate yourself to maintain a relationship with food during the holidays that promotes both your healthiest physical and mental self.  

mindful eating with family

Think of food as an experience.

Food is more than just what’s on the fork you put in your mouth; it’s more than what you grab off the platter on the buffet table. It’s an experience wrapped up in the traditions of the food you’re eating, and with whom you are sharing your meal.  

Savor the symbolism and tradition.

Maybe your mother makes the same apple pie every year, maybe your uncle makes famous stuffing that you just can’t pass up. Don’t guilt yourself over enjoying the foods that you love and that mean a lot to you over the holidays. Savor them for both their taste and the value they have for you and your loved ones.

Remember the conversation.

As you’re eating, put the fork down in between bites, and join in conversation around you. Eating in front of a distraction like the TV encourages you to eat more quickly, and inhibits you from focusing on the flavors of the food you are meant to enjoy. Eating and conversing helps remind us of what food really means during the season: something around which people can come together to celebrate life to the fullest.

Chew slowly.

Not only does chewing slowly give you more time to enjoy the flavors in your food, it also allows your body to catch up to your satiety signals. Your brain doesn’t immediately recognize that your stomach is full, which is why when you eat quickly it can suddenly hit you that you’ve far surpassed the point of being comfortably satiated! Eating slowly not only helps you enjoy the food more, but it also helps you know when you are starting to feel satisfied.

Breathe.

Yes, this may seem simple, but it truly is a healthy principle to adopt while you’re at the dinner table. Consciously breathing helps relax your body, which promotes better digestion. If food is also a stressor for you around this time of year, practicing mindful breathing also helps to ease anxiety and bring you back to the present moment.

Regardless of what worries you this year, food should not be a source of stress or guilt. Don’t forget, food is something delicious to be enjoyed as a part of celebration with those you love. Practicing these mindful eating principles can help you enjoy your holiday eats to the fullest, and help you establish a good mind-body relationship with food every day. So grab that slice of apple pie, and enjoy every single bite.

Author: Maggie Harriman

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