Endless to-do lists, financial strain, dreading family functions, feeling lonely, fear of holiday weight gain, experiencing mental and emotional exhaustion with a full calendar can rob us from our happiness during the holidays. Mindfulness is a century old Eastern concept that is well known to gift us with more peace. Mindful eating means paying closer attention to your body, habits and triggers. I’d like to share a few tips to find more joy and treat your body with respect this year.
Gracefully arrive to the meal. Food represents the gift of energy, effort and life. No matter what personal or faith-based beliefs you have, find some words to cultivate gratitude either silently or aloud prior to eating. Before diving into the meal, pause and reflect both inward and outward. Enjoy the food with attention and appreciation. It has a powerful ability to nourish your body while you experience pleasure.
Let go of the rules. It’s OK to get seconds and it’s OK to leave food on your plate. Using your sense of appreciation and gratitude for the food, reflect inward to your stomach cues with intention to eat an amount that gets you comfortably full. Make food decisions from a place of wisdom and acceptance rather than habit or obligation. Listen to what your stomach tells you. Find what works for YOU rather than doing what you think you “should” do.
Stay present. Appreciate the holiday food by recognizing the taste, flavor, texture and smells. Become aware of your choices without judgement. Compassion and empathy are the remedy for judgment. Mindful eating can mean eating with a deep awareness of what we are eating and why we are eating. Be curious of what comes to surface, it may be worth investigating later. Allow yourself to have a thought or experience an emotion without having to react to it. Be aware of your surroundings, urges to eat out of obligation as well as emotionally driven cravings. Be aware of various degrees of hunger; mindfulness works best when we avoid the ravenous stage of hunger.
Practicing mindfulness brings an opportunity to experience food as an enjoyable source of nourishment, something to welcome and celebrate. Consciousness is an essential ingredient to your well-being. Eating mindfully is a journey and takes practice; expect yourself self to slip up from time to time. The key is not giving up when you stumble. Be kind to yourself and keep learning; progress no perfection. I challenge you to be more mindful this holiday season and you may just feel more merry.
Chaundra Evans, RD, LDN, CEDRD-S is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian and an approved supervisor for the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. She helps her clients build a healthy relationship with food and improve their eating habits using a non-diet approach. If you’re looking for this type of nutritional support from a nutrition professional, call our office at (910) 790-9500 today to schedule your appointment.