by Lori Schermers, RD
The holidays are filled with the warmth of love from family and friends, brilliant decorations, and an abundance of food and traditions. Many of us eagerly anticipate the traditional foods of the season while worrying about how to manage the numerous social events.
The stress of the holiday season combined with the abundance of seasonal foods, including desserts and treats, creates understandable challenges for eating in a way that honors our health and well-being. There are so many distractions – external and internal – that pull us away from the experience of just tasting and enjoying our food. The practice of mindful eating – returning to the moment, tasting and savoring, breathing and resting – can support us in this effort.
Mindful eating is a non-diet approach that lets go of feelings of shame or guilt. It is an invitation to savor, appreciate, and enjoy the foods you intentionally choose to eat. Rather than mindlessly making your way through the holiday season and waking up after the first of the year to “undo,” consider bringing some mindful eating practices to your table.
People are often surprised as to what little amount of food they really need to feel satisfied when they pay close attention to the experience of eating. The practice of mindful eating starts before the first bite and includes curiosity and kind self-observation of one’s relationship to eating.
Mindless or Mindful
If you are hurried, distracted, emotionally charged, or the environment creates a significant challenge in your ability to enjoy the food mindfully, consider the possibility of saving it for later when you can eat with more presence. Sometimes we tell ourselves a story about how delicious a food will be, then a couple bites in we notice it’s not as delicious as we anticipated. When we can be fully present to the experience of eating, we begin to notice the subtlties of truly delighting in what we are eating versus eating something that might actually not be as fabulous as we thought, just because it’s there or because we’ve already had a bite or two. We become empowered to decide what feels right for us in that moment, without guilt or regret.
Choose Food You Desire
Preparing and enjoying food is both physically and emotionally nourishing, and we deserve to enjoy the experience to our fullest while honoring our own inner wisdom. Give yourself permission to eat the foods you desire, and be choosy. Many packaged foods are “dressed up for every season.” Have you noticed? Ask yourself if holiday-colored M&M’s are really what you want; is there a food that’s truly seasonal or homemade that you might enjoy? Develop the habit of asking yourself, “what is the right amount of this food for my body?” Mindful eaters typically have a healthy pattern of eating because they find they feel best when eating well. Love what you eat and love the way you feel when you eat what you love!
Take a moment to assess your hunger. Why are you eating? How hungry are you, really? Or are you craving something else, like emotional nourishment or physical movement, that food can’t satisfy? If hungry, choose food or a combination of foods that will satisfy and nourish you. Not hungry? What will nourish you? Perhaps a walk, some deep breaths, connecting with a friend, or even a nap is what you’re really wanting.
Breathe and Offer Gratitude
Take a few breaths before you begin to eat. A few breaths help to slow down and bring yourself fully to the experience of eating. Offer gratitude for the earth, sun, plants, farmers, and everything else involved in delivering this food to you.
Appreciate with all your senses
Appreciate the colors, composition, aroma, textures, and temperatures of the food. Chew slowly, and savor each bite.
Try these skills while eating a simple food, like a clementine that you need to peel, or a few pistachios that need to be shelled. Applying these concepts to a simple snack will help build your muscle of mindfulness. When you show up at holiday events, it will be easier to eat with more awareness. You deserve nothing less than the full amount of joy and satisfaction that can be derived from mindfully eating the food that you love and the food that makes you love how you feel.
May you care for yourself with JOY this holiday season,
Lori Schermers is a Registered Dietician who helps people eat well, eat mindfully, and be healthy at any size. If you would like to explore these concepts with more depth and intention, consider joining us for an upcoming 3-Hour Mindful Eating for Beginners Workshop, or dive in to our 8-week Eat for Life: Mindful Eating Course. Browse our site or contact us for more information.