Updated: Dec 19, 2020
While the holidays look a bit different this year, they may stir up some familiar feelings. Aside from the joy the holidays can bring, it is inevitable for some of us to feel stress, anxiety or sadness around this time of year as well. This is especially true when eating habits are of concern. Between the abundance of indulgent food choices that often surround us and the diet talk that can occur among our loved ones, navigating these situations can be overwhelming.
In this article, I'll share some tips for maintaining mindful eating habits throughout the holidays. Remaining mindful of your eating experiences can alleviate some of the negative feelings that arise and help you focus on making memories and enjoying your time to the fullest.
Tips for eating mindfully during the holidays:
Fully enjoy the foods that you want to eat. We can easily find ourselves in situations where we are bombarded with food choices during the holidays. Try taking note of which foods you really look forward to having and don't feel bad for skipping the foods you don't enjoy. Then, savor the foods you choose to have. Remind yourself that you don't need to rush to finish them. When you sit down to eat, observe the food in front of you, take note of the aromas you detect and let yourself experience all the flavors on your tongue before swallowing. Take your time and enjoy your food choices, that way you feel satisfied and able to move on comfortably.
Practice saying no to foods you don't want or are not hungry enough for. It can be hard to say no to a friend or family member when they ask you to try something they prepared for a special get together. If you want it, great, but if not, don't feel obligated to say yes. You have the final say in what or how much you eat. Some ways to frame a response when someone offers you a food you don't want are to say that you are too full, that you will try some later or that you'll take some to go so you can have it another time.
Eat consistently. Sometimes, people make the mistake of "saving room" for the large amounts of food they believe they will eat when they approach a holiday celebration. This can look like eating small quantities of food and deliberately remaining hungry until you reach that celebration. The problem with this is that it can backfire. If you arrive at a holiday celebration in a ravenous state, you are much more likely to overeat to compensate. Eating consistent meals and snacks throughout the day, like you would on any other day, can help regulate your hunger levels and ensure you will eat comfortable portions.
Honor your hunger and fullness levels. Stay in touch with your hunger and fullness levels as you decide when and how much to eat. This is a helpful practice regardless of the time of year, but it can be especially difficult to be mindful of around this time. There is a common belief that overeating is normal or expected during the holidays, but remind yourself that you can maintain normal eating habits at all times. If you end up eating past fullness during certain meals or try a food even if you aren't hungry, then that is normal and nothing to be ashamed of! It happens to all of us from time to time. Paying attention to hunger and fullness levels is a good tool in determining your eating patterns, but remember that we aren't striving for perfection. Be easy on yourself.
Let go of the "I'll start a diet once the holidays are over" mentality. If you approach the holidays thinking that you can't control yourself around food and that you'll start a diet once the new year rolls around in order to make up for your holiday habits, this can backfire as well. The mere thought of deprivation and restricting yourself from a list of "forbidden" foods in the future can drive you to overeat before the diet begins. This is often referred to as Last Supper eating. The fear that you won't be able to enjoy those "forbidden" foods once you start a diet can drive you to eat large quantities of those foods now, before you are no longer allowed to have them. This feeds into the harmful restrict/binge eating cycle that can lead to further disordered eating.
You don't need to "healthify" your favorite holidays foods, but it's okay if you do. If you want to swap out your wheat pasta noodles for zucchini noodles, and feel that you will enjoy the dish just as much, then go right ahead! With that being said, don't feel like you need to. If you make that swap and feel like you're depriving yourself of the version you will enjoy most, then that's where the problem lies. That deprivation can lead to bingeing on the desired food later on. Being mindful of both nutrition and enjoyment is important. When it comes to holidays foods, a lot of us have dishes that are special to this time of year. If you really want mom's Christmas pasta as it is traditionally made, then enjoy it without a side of guilt. Remember that our overall eating patterns are what matter for health. One meal or snack alone won't make or break it.
I hope you found these tips helpful and that applying them will allow you to enjoy the holidays to the fullest this year. Stay safe, healthy and happy!
Do you want to learn more about adopting mindful and healthy eating habits for lifelong health and well-being? Contact me to schedule a free, 30-minute discovery call today!
Until next time,