While the holidays can be a wonderful time full of love and good food, it can be overwhelming to the point where the needs of our bodies are silenced by the delicious desserts and our favorite holiday dishes. The holidays are not the only time during the year when you can enjoy good food and it's important to be mindful of this fact. It's far too easy to overindulge our bodies because of our environment and emotions.
We're bringing you our top 10 tips for practicing mindful eating during the holiday season that have helped us and those around us significantly. With these methods we hope to help you satisfy your cravings in a manner that honors not only your emotions, but your mind, body, and mental well-being as well.
This is a season for enjoying good food, better company, and unforgettable experiences; let's honor our bodies all the while.
1. Don't restrict. Enjoy what you desire in moderation.
Life is too short to deprive ourselves of the things we enjoy most. Restricting ourselves from foods we truly desire can not only hinder us from embracing the fullness of the holiday season but can lead to us bingeing or overindulging in other unhealthy ways.
It’s important to shift our mindsets to view foods as neither “good” nor “bad”. Anything in excess can have negative effects on our bodies, even foods we categorize as “good”. We should seek to follow a flexible diet that is rich in real, whole foods and also allows for us to still enjoy those foods that should be eaten in moderation. For example, pairing a greasy hamburger with a garden salad, topping ice cream with heart healthy nuts, or a side of fresh fruit with the breakfast donut.
Give yourself grace with food. Savor the foods you want with intentionality to keep yourself from overindulging later on when you cave in. Our diets should be composed of clean foods that do right by our body, but also, in moderation, those that fuel our happiness.
2. Practice portion control with small plates.
One of the best ways to practice portion control is to utilize those dishes that will force you to do so. It makes sense that a dish with a smaller surface area or smaller silverware would only allow you to serve yourself a smaller portion of food at a single time.
We know our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, so why do we continue to pile our plates high knowing full well it's too much? The best way to avoid overstuffing ourselves is to start small, then go back for seconds if we feel our appetite hasn't been satisfied.
Another important portion control practice is to avoid eating directly from the container itself. Instead, we should portion out a single serving of food from the start to prevent ourselves from mindless snacking.
3. Avoid distractions while eating. Be present during the process.
We've all experienced times when we sit down with a big bag of chips and before we know it we've somehow devoured the entire family sized bag. It's no secret that technology, from the TV to our phones, can be a major distraction.
Distractions take our focus from our food, elsewhere, leaving us prone to mindless eating instead of listening to our body's hunger cues. We should seek to be so present during our meal times as to pay close attention to the flavors and textures of our food, enjoying them to the fullest. How does the food we are eating make us feel physically? Emotionally?
Meal time deserves our attention just as much as our favorite TV show. It is a time to be present with good company, whether that be with others or in the sweet company of yourself.
4. Listen to your body, not your cravings.
There is a difference between hunger and appetite. Hunger is the intrinsic signal our bodies give when we are in need of food for fuel. Appetite is simply the desire to eat and can be stimulated by a variety of factors.
Hunger is physiological, appetite is a desire fueled by circumstance.
Our appetite can change by a variety of factors, such as:
- social events where others are eating around us
- activity level
- our senses - seeing and smelling something good
- our emotions - eating out of boredom or as a coping mechanism
- the weather conditions
The key to mindful eating is listening to your body. The best way to do so is to honor your hunger cues and question if you're actually hungry, or if maybe you're simply bored, stressed, surrounded by others eating, or any number of factors that can stimulate our appetite.
5. Go for a walk after your meal.
Not only can going for a walk stimulate our brains to release the happy hormone, dopamine, but they can also help stimulate digestion. More and more research is coming to light promoting the benefits of going for a post-meal walk to help regulate blood sugar and aid in digestion.
A study found that moderate movement after a meal through walking or running showed an increase in the movement of food through the digestions process when compared to resorting to a resting state post-meal. This movement of food may help resolve bloating and fullness we can experience after eating.
Instead of moving from the dinner to the couch or bed after a meal, do your body a favor and take a short walk around the block to get your digestion moving.
6. Put a healthy twist on traditional recipes.
There's no limit to what recipes you can't healthify now a days. And the best part, is you don't have to do any of the creative thinking when you have recipe creators that have already done it already.
From vegan tamales to paleo stuffing, the internet is wildly saturated with thousands of healthy holiday recipes that will give you the comfort of your favorite dishes, but without the crumby ingredients.
Lucky for you, you don't have to look far for tasty and healthy recipes. Wildway has lots of wonderful recipes that meet a variety of dietary needs: paleo, whole30, vegan, grain-free, and much more. Check out our recipes here and try one for yourself!
Head over to our Wildway Holiday Recipe Book for 10 delicious holiday classic dishes with a healthy twist.
7. Practice gratitude.
We all know the holiday season is about more than gifts and the annual family ski trip, but how often do we practice mindful gratitude in our daily lives, especially when it comes to the food we have before us?
As we sit at the table with a plate full of homemade food made with love, surrounded by friends and family we hold dear, we should seek to take a moment appreciation for all that we have. Recognize what a gift it is to have people who love you, food to nourish you, and a warm environment to call home.
We can quickly get lost in devouring our food without taking into account all of the things we have to be thankful for. With each bite of food think of one thing you are grateful for and chew on that while you chew your bite of food.
8. Slow down.
Before digging into your food, take a second to absorb everything on your plate with your other senses. Look at the variety of colors, inhale the different notes of spice and smoke and sweet, acknowledge the difference in textures, try to imagine what each component of your plate will taste like.
Eating is a full experience we often rush to indulge our sense of taste. With each bite, revisit the previously mentioned senses and see how what you imagined the food to be like differs from what it's actually like. Were your senses spot on? Did the stuffing have a surprising flavor or crunch?
9. Find ways to destress without food.
While the holidays can be a magical and wonderful time of year, they can also be full of stressful moments. Instead of coping with a box of homemade holiday cookies or the bowl of stuffing we planned to take to the party, it's important to have outlets of stress relief not related to food.
Your immediate response to stress might be to indulge with food, but take a second to relieve the stress of your mind and body in a way that respects them, not your emotions.
Take a fall-time stroll through your neighborhood or nearby park, spend quality time with a friend, hammock and read in a quiet spot, or anything else that may take you outside the house and into a peaceful place.
10. Recruit an accountability partner.
Where there's one person trying to gain better control of their holiday hunger and cravings, there are many more. Chances are at least one person you know, whether it be a family member or friend, is seeking the same goals you are.
When choosing an accountability partner, seek out someone who you can talk openly and be honest with, someone you can depend and rely on to walk alongside you during this season. This can be a time for the two of you to grow closer together through trying and rewarding experiences!
Ideally, you want to pair up with someone you'd like to engage in the stress relief activities previously mentioned with and also someone you can openly express yourself to when you feel like overindulging.
Need some inspiration for what to eat throughout a day of mindful eating? We created this meal plan to give you an idea of what a day of balanced and mindful eating might look like. Put the tips in this article to practice and happy holidays!