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Mindful Eating and the Holidays

The holidays are here! No doubt many of us are anticipating time with family and friends, gift giving and receiving, and then there’s all that yummy food! Comfort foods - those once-a-year-delights that many of us didn’t get to enjoy the past two years with the pandemic concerns. So this year’s tempting treats may seem even more tempting than ever. Our first thought might be to load up on everything because we missed out on a couple years.

Common Holiday Eating Habits

Eating when we are not physically hungry or beyond physical fullness is not uncommon, especially around the holidays. Many of us equate holiday foods with love, comfort, family, and connection. It’s easy to get carried away and want more of a good thing. But eating when emotionally hungry, rather than physically hungry, can lead to feelings of shame, sadness, disappointment in ourselves, and negative self-talk.

How to Enjoy Food This Holiday Season

Here are a few ideas to help you enjoy your time with family, friends AND food this holiday season:

  • Decide rather than deprive - give yourself permission to have the foods you are anticipating by choosing smaller portions. For example, if there are multiple choices for dessert, decide ahead of time to choose the two or three that are most appealing to you and take a mini-portion of each. Deprivation can actually backfire and cause us to eat more and feel worse.
  • Lose the labeling of foods as “good” or “bad” - labeling foods this way can lead us to label ourselves as “good” or “bad”. Unless you have health reasons for not eating certain foods, practice thinking of food as fuel for your body, mind, and spirit. This will allow you to slow down, savor, and appreciate the taste instead of rushing through to hide the evidence that we ate something we weren’t supposed to. When we slow it down, we can actually enjoy our food, and frequently, we eat less because we are paying attention. We are satisfied sooner.
  • Believe your body - your body knows when it’s hungry for food and when it’s had enough. Paying attention and being mindful of your body’s innate signals will help you enjoy the food even more.
  • Trust in Tupperware - or whatever container is available. If you are eating at someone else’s home, they would love to send some goodies home with you! They might have containers available, or you can take one of your own. It’s a huge compliment to your host to ask to take something with you. Then, when you’re physically hungry again, you can enjoy it just that much more.

When we practice paying attention to our bodies, respecting hunger and fullness cues, and trusting that there will be more, mindful eating becomes a beautiful practice for our own self care during the holidays and beyond.

Originally Published: November 2021. Revised: August 2022. 

Karen Williams, LIMHP
Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

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