The holiday season is a wonderful time of year accompanied by a wonderful assortment of food and sweet treats. Naturally, we indulge in foods that we would not normally indulge in any other time of year, and we practice eating habits specific to the holiday season.
Eating differently on special occasions is expected, and eating a little bit more than usual is a part of celebrating with our friends and families. However, for people who are trying to maintain healthy eating habits or those who struggle with their relationship with food, holiday meals can be particularly challenging. Mindful eating is a tool that can help you make better choices during the holiday season.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating focuses on listening to your body’s thoughts and feelings about food. This attention and awareness of your body’s needs help establish a healthier relationship with food by encouraging you to make choices that will satisfy and nourish you.
Practicing mindfulness in general, helps you be present in the moment and be more aware of your situation and choices instead of reacting to them retroactively. When engaging in mindfulness, you focus on the present moment rather than on the past or the future. Mindful eating focuses on your present eating experience and helps you overcome the guilt that can often come with overeating.
Mindful Eating During the Holidays
The principle of mindful eating is simple: listen to your body. However, listening to your body can be challenging in the noise of friends, family, and celebration. Below are a few tips to ensure you honor your body’s voice.
- Eat while sitting: Sitting down to eat helps you connect with the experience of eating. It is easy to graze over holiday buffets and tables while talking with friends and family or stand in front of the refrigerator eating leftovers. Mindlessly reaching for food while standing next to the dessert table disconnects your mind from your body. Sitting in a designated dining era away from the food allows you to sense hunger cues and pay attention to what you are eating and why.
- Focus on your sensory cues: The elaborate cocktails, desserts, and meals can easily overwhelm and overload your senses. Sometimes, this leads to us snacking on foods we do not enjoy. Focus on the food's scent, taste, texture, and temperature, and check in with yourself on how the food feels to you. If you are not enjoying what you are eating, do not fill up on that. Instead, choose a food that you enjoy the taste and texture of.
- Slow down: It can take time for your stomach to send messages to your brain that you are full. If you are eating too quickly, you may miss this cue. After eating your first helping, take 10 minutes before you go for seconds. This time will allow your brain to get the message that you are full. Eating slower puts you in control of the food going into your body. It allows you the opportunity to stop yourself before you are uncomfortably full.
Other Tips for Eating Healthy During the Holidays
Outside of being mindful and listening to your body, there are other choices to ensure you maintain healthy eating habits during the holidays. Whether you are trying to regulate your blood sugar or you are trying to maintain your weight, the tips below may be helpful to you.
- Don’t go out on an empty stomach. To avoid overeating due to extreme hunger, snack on something before you arrive at a party. This will prevent you from bingeing later at the holiday party. Some foods that satiate hunger but still leave room for yummy holiday treats are apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread.
- Pay attention to your drinks. Be wary of wine, beer, and mixed drinks that can add to your blood sugar content or calorie count. Have a glass or two and drink them slowly to ensure you can savor them while maintaining healthy eating habits.
- Be kind to yourself. We cannot always make choices or engage in healthy practices for us 100% of the time. It’s okay to indulge in too many desserts, drinks, and meals. The holidays are not a time to focus on the guilt and value of your food. It’s a time to enjoy time with loved ones and reflect on the year. Put the focus on laughter and cheer.
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Eating Healthy During the Holidays Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are a few answers to questions you may still have.
Can I gain weight from one meal?
In order to gain one pound of fat, you would have to consume 3500 extra calories than you normally consume. That is the equivalent of almost seven Big Macs! Chances are one meal will not result in gaining fat. Changes in your body following a large meal are most likely water weight and bloating, and these symptoms usually subside after a day or two.
How does alcohol affect my eating habits?
Alcohol amplifies your appetite. Drinking alcohol turns on hormones and receptors that increase our appetite, resulting in overindulgence while we drink.
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Are all carbs unhealthy?
Your body needs carbs for short-term energy. However, the type of carbs you consume may have different effects on your health goals. Carbs in fruits and vegetables are a healthy source of energy and vitamins. In contrast, carbs in pasta and bread can make you lethargic. If you struggle to make healthy choices, you may consult a nutritionist.
Eating healthy over the holidays can be challenging. Still, there are many different ways to make your relationships with food healthier during the season. Practicing mindful eating, preparing for large meals, and being kind to yourself will help cultivate a healthy relationship with your body and nutrition.
Health is so much more than what is on the scale. Regular bloodwork and visits with a primary care physician ensure that you are nourishing your body properly. For an average of $45 per month, Mira can provide you with affordable in-person and virtual doctor’s visits while also providing access to laboratory testing for regular bloodwork. Sign up for Mira today!
Shandra is a junior at Yale University, where she is studying biomedical engineering. Before joining Mira, Shandra wrote in the science and technology column of a local newspaper. Additionally, she has experience writing healthcare policy, covering topics such as the American Rescue Plan Act, abortion rights, and expansion of Medicare eligibility.