Eat Mindful this Holiday Season

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The holiday season has begun! There is so much that we love about the festive season, particularly all the opportunities to get together with family and friends. Typically, these gatherings are centered around food, which can make overindulging quite easy when your calendar is packed with holiday parties. The holidays are a special time for many people because of the traditions that revolve around food and good company. Therefore, we suggest that you allow yourself little indulgences during the holidays, while also being mindful throughout the season. 

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating using all senses (i.e., seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling food). For example, instead of eating the whole bowl of candy canes, perhaps eat just one and savour it, or choose a more nutritious snack. Mindful eating can help you become more aware of the reason why you are eating. Did you know that there are three types of "hunger"? By paying a little attention to why you are eating, mindful eating can teach you to eat when you are STOMACH hungry (i.e., the actual physical hunger that indicates your body needs food for nourishment), and stop when you feel full. Being aware can help you manage those times when you find yourself eating just because food is in front of you or when you are eating because it makes you feel good or fills an emotion (i.e., HEART hunger), or when you are eating because of a craving for the taste of a food (i.e., MOUTH hunger). 

How can I eat mindfully, not mindlessly?

There are so many online articles with tips about how to avoid overindulging during the holidays, but many of these suggestions are unreasonable. Some examples include, "wear tight clothing so you will be less likely to overeat during dinner" or "fill up on food before you head off to a party". We have to laugh at such suggestions! Who wants to be uncomfortable, or would even enjoy themselves, when they are stuffed so tight in their holiday wear? Not us! Also, would you max out your credit card before you went shopping? The same idea applies to filling up on food before you head to a party. There are no guarantees that filling up beforehand will prevent you from eating at the party. You might also miss out on delicious holiday cooking or baking. Why deprive yourself!?

You can eat mindfully by having an awareness and being present in the moment when making food choices. Check out our suggestions below about how you can avoid eating mindlessly this holiday season: 

  • Eat when you are hungry: Be mindful of when you are STOMACH hungry before, during and after the party. Make sure you eat throughout the day, rather than skipping meals so you can indulge later. Waiting until you are "starving" might cause you to eat more than you planned and you might end up leaving a party feeling uncomfortably full if you showed up feeling full.
  • Enjoy your favourite holiday foods and drinks: Holiday gatherings are often set up as buffet style. Take a look at what's available before making your selection and pick and choose what you want to enjoy and skip the rest!
  • Savour each flavour: As we mentioned above, use all your senses while eating your favourite foods. Take the time to appreciate the taste, texture, and aroma, one bite at a time. 
  • Control portions: With so much delicious food around, you can easily fill up your plate in no time. Try using a smaller plate to help control portions of food and start with choosing salad and/or vegetables before you jump into dessert. Additionally, once you finish your plate, give yourself some time to see how you feel and decide if you are actually still hungry. It takes about 15 minutes for our brain to realize that our stomach is full. 
  • Put down the plate: We are not suggesting that you skip eating at a party, but we encourage you to put down that plate and move around. Take the opportunity to mingle with family and friends you don't get to see often. Go for a walk after dinner or join the kids in a sports game. Jump into that group playing board games. Start a dance party or sing your heart out to karaoke. There is plenty of time to enjoy the food and all the festivities and you should indulge in all of it!

Most importantly, we encourage you to practice self-care during the holiday season. Enjoy the holidays to the fullest by choosing to do what makes you happy. Indulge in non-food items or experiences, stay active, eat mindful, catch up with family and friends, and enjoy some much needed down-time!

Happy holidays!

xo M & K

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