The holidays are a time to enjoy family, friends and food. However, I often hear clients call it the “holidaze”—a combination of excitement and overwhelm that many people feel from Halloween through New Year’s! Bags of Halloween candy. Thanksgiving leftovers. Plates of cookies in every office. Travel. More travel. One holiday party after another. School festivities. I think the term sounds fairly accurate 🙂
So, how can you participate in this season’s offerings without overdoing it? By eating more mindfully. Mindful eating helps you learn to listen to what your body is telling you about your hunger and satisfaction. It involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and discovering how they influence the choices you make.
Below are my tips to help you eat more mindfully—as well as decrease cravings and emotional eating—over the upcoming holidays.
- Start by looking at your breakfast. People’s needs can vary. For some, a fiber-rich breakfast works to regulate your appetite and prevent mid-morning hunger by keeping you full longer. For others, a breakfast with more protein works to keep your blood sugar level balanced and decreases cravings. Others may enjoy adding vegetables for a savory, not sweet, way to start the day. Do a week-long experiment and discover what works best for you.
- Choose wisely. Identify in advance what you think will satisfy you instead of eating randomly. Do you want crunchy or mushy? Salty or sweet? Hot or cold? Something light or more substantial? By identifying what you want in advance you’ll help satisfy that specific desire—instead of eating different foods until you hit on the one you really wanted in the first place.
- Ask yourself if your body or mind is driving your choices. If you are physically hungry, then eat. But if you are eating because of anger, sadness, boredom, excitement or stress, find other activities to “feed” yourself. For example, call a friend, take a bath, or go out for a walk. Make a list of non-food things that “feed” you and have that list on-hand in times of need.
- Stay hydrated. Drink a large glass of water or herbal tea. Often thirst is mistaken for hunger. After you drink your water, wait 15 minutes. Are you still hungry?
- Choose high quality foods. You will need to eat less of a food when it satisfies you more. A small piece of high-quality chocolate is more satisfying than an entire candy bar—and won’t make you sick afterwards! Read my post: If You Make Only One Dietary Change
- Savor each bite. If you really appreciate the first few bites of your treat, will you need to eat the whole piece? If you make eating mindful, you won’t have to deprive yourself entirely—and you also won’t over-do it.
- Slow Down. Make a conscious effort to eat slowly. Relax when you eat. Practice chewing. Put down your fork between bites. Experiment with eating your food with chop-sticks 🙂
- Have healthy alternatives at work and home. Preparation is key! You will not be as tempted to eat from the tray of cookies your colleague brought in to work if you have something of your own to snack on.
- Taste your food. Really taste it! Do you like it? Don’t be afraid to not eat it all. If your food actually doesn’t taste as good as you imagined it would, toss it!
- Have a seat. Commit to eating only when seated. Do not eat standing at the pantry, the open fridge, or the holiday buffet. This behavior will lead to mindless snacking and unconscious eating.
- Start small. A lifetime of habits cannot be changed overnight. Give yourself time for the new choice to feel “normal”. Create attainable goals that you can reach. Be sure to celebrate your progress.
- Break the addiction. If your craving is happening daily, it is behaving more like an addiction. Avoid that food for 2-3 weeks to break the cycle. Then see if you can add it back in moderation.
- Change your attitude. Drop what I refer to as the “New Year’s Resolution mentality.” Healthy eating is not all or nothing! If you make an unwise choice, don’t throw in the towel for good. Consider it a lesson learned and continue to move forward.