Celebrate the season with mindful holiday eating

Dec 20, 2013

friends eating dinner togetherThe holiday season is often filled with friends, family, and plenty of delicious food. The month of December can be a time of overindulgence leading to New Year’s resolutions that involve getting back on track.

This holiday season try practicing mindful eating to help keep your holiday eating patterns healthy and right for you. Mindful eating involves giving food and eating your full attention, learning to check in with your thoughts and listening to your internal hunger and fullness cues. Mindful eating is not a diet, but a skill that can be learned. 

Here a six strategies to help you conquer the holiday food extravaganza.

Holiday party prep

Fuel your hunger before the party. It sounds simple, but if you’re hungry, have something to eat! Arriving to a holiday party hungry can often lead to eating more than your body needs.

Try to eat a small protein-rich snack prior to the party to take the edge off your hunger and help you arrive with a good appetite. This could include a small handful of nuts, Greek yogurt with fruit, or low-fat cheese and veggies.

Monitor your portions by feeling your fullness

Feel empowered to make mindful decisions by listening to your body’s physical hunger and fullness cues. Start by recognizing when you’re physically hungry and observing when you’re comfortably full and satisfied. To practice, use a simple scale of 1 to 10 to help assess your level of hunger and fullness at any time.

Another way you can remain mindful is by using smaller plates, bowls and utensils to eat and enjoy your food.

Beware of the “food pushers”

At some holiday parties you may experience “food pushers” who characteristically try to offer a never-ending lineup of food. This can be challenging if you’re at a point where you are no longer physically hungry and are not sure what to say.

Don’t be afraid to just say NO. Be selective during holiday parties and choose the foods that you really love to eat.

Drink mindfully

Fancy eggnog or ale drinks are often a part of the holiday season. Although these drinks are enjoyable in moderation, it’s important to remember that alcoholic beverages can add extra calories and sugar. Also, alcohol can impair your ability to eat mindfully.

Try the “alternating drink rule”. This involves alternating between one alcoholic beverage and one lower-calorie beverage option, such as club soda with lime, Perrier or San Pellegrino, or water with lemon.

Love the treats you eat!

Get rid of the “should” and “shouldn’t” food list. Especially over the holiday season, give yourself permission to enjoy the treats that evoke special memories and bring you holiday joy.

Try to slow down and observe at the food table. Be selective during holiday parties by choosing the foods you really love and will enjoy! Remind yourself that you can have the other foods at a later time.

Stay active during the holidays  

During the holidays it can be challenging to stick with your regular physical activity routine. This can be a good time to try new activities or fit in activity whenever you can.

Instead of focusing on the calorie burning effect of physical activity, focus on how it feels to move your body. By choosing an activity that’s manageable for you and changing your mindset to focus on how physical activity makes you feel, such as less stressed, more energized or stronger, you’re more likely to stay motivated to make it part of your holiday season. Remember that you can return to your regular routine once the holiday season slows down. 

So remember: be mindful of your eating practices, love the food you eat, focus on feeling good, and most importantly have the happiest of holidays!