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Tips For Mindful Eating During the Winter Holidays

Holidays, Lifestyle, Seasonal

The holidays are among us again! Every year, I have clients ask me how they should go about dieting during the holiday season. What I say: Drop the dieting and savor the season. Enjoy your holidays in celebration without deprivation.

Mindful Eating During The Holidays

While you should be much more worried about your routines during the other 363 days of the year rather than just on Thanksgiving and New Years, you can still spend these days practicing mindful eating. Mindful eating helps us become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations related to eating, reconnecting us with our innate inner wisdom about hunger and satiety.

To practice mindful eating, I recommend following this specific process. First, breathe! Next, set your intention to stop when you are satisfied – NOT when you are full. While you’re eating, make sure to savor each bite with all of your senses. Pause between each bite to make sure you’re really doing this, and then repeat.

We talked with The Center for Mindful Eating about their tips for people looking to practice mindful eating

“Mindfulness, the practice of being present without judgment, and with curiosity and openness, is a necessary component of mindful eating. To that end, to try and practice mindful eating lacking experience and an understanding of mindfulness may reduce the quality of the experience and undermine the richness and subtleties of mindful eating,” health psychologist Lynn Rossy said.

“For instance, a mindful eater will be aware of their body sensations of hunger, fullness, and taste. They will also be aware of the mood they are in when they sit down to eat, the motivation they have to reach for food, the thoughts that are going through their head that affect the experience of their body and eating, as well as the environment around them. The skill of purposely bringing one’s attention to the present moment and all that it holds without judgment is developed through training in mindfulness and is where a mindful eating practice begins.”

While all of this sounds great, it’s sometimes easier said than done. There are a few roadblocks that can come into play that Lynn highlighted to us.

“First is not understanding what mindful eating is and isn’t. For instance, it is not a diet, it is not a weight loss program, and it is not a rule-based way of eating. Probably the biggest roadblock is that people are so conditioned to look for external rules about how to eat that they have lost connection with their internal wisdom about how, when, why, and what to eat. Teaching people to begin to listen for their internal cues is one of the first steps in undoing the effects of diet culture.”

Angela’s Tips for Tackling the Holidays

I have quite a few go-to tips that I like to share with my clients to prepare for the holidays. First, I advise them to “Mingle All the Way”. This means to position yourself away from the food, and instead focus on mingling with the guests.

Next, remember to keep in mind that you don’t have to say no to everything. By depriving yourself of everything, you’re increasing your chances of giving in and tossing any sort of mindfulness to the side. I always recommend enjoying some of your favorites, but in small amounts. However, if you think that this won’t hold up for you, you can always exercise your right not to eat and avoid any temptation bites entirely!

If you have the honor of hosting, remember that you hold the power! Feel free to rework your usual menu to substitute in some healthier options. See below for some of my favorite healthy holiday substitutions! Also, remember that you can avoid buying certain foods altogether if you know that something in particular is a trigger for you.

Healthy Holiday Substitutes

Let me take you through your entire Thanksgiving Day meal and give you some healthy pointers. 

  • Turkey – Make sure that you’re cooking it in a low sodium brine. Avoid eating the skin.
  • Mashed Potatoes – Replace cream with low-fat milk and use less butter. For a vegan option, use unsweetened almond or soy milk and Earth Balance vegan spread.
  • Gravy – Less is more!
  • Stuffing – Use whole grain bread and added veggies like celery, carrots and onion.
  • Green Beans – Sautéed with slivered almonds can replace green bean casserole.
  • Cranberry Sauce – Use real cranberries or 25% less sugar cranberry sauce. Or you can use monk fruit!
  • Pie – Use 25% less sugar in fillings and toppings, or just take a smaller slice of one of your favorites.
  • Alcohol – Stick with wine spritzers, and drink a glass of water in between drinks.

So, strut into the holiday season with confidence by remembering these three important tips. First, visualize yourself at the end of the day on Thanksgiving or New Years. How do you want to feel at the end of the meal/event? Next, remember to hit the pause button. Take 3 deep breaths before you eat, and set the intention to stop eating when you are satisfied, even if you have to leave food on your plate. Finally, make sure to focus on your favorites. Take small tastes of your most anticipated holiday foods, focusing solely on your must-haves for the day.

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angela sitting outdoors on laptop eating healthy foods

About the Author

Angela is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), board-certified health coach and trained yoga teacher who helps clients achieve a healthy weight and gain control over their GI distress.

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