Season's Eatings: Celebrate mindfully

We are in the midst of the holiday season, surrounded by window displays, tree lightings, shopping sales and, of course, delicious food. In this time of social distancing, we are spending more and more time on the internet. This time of year, the internet is filled with articles like “6 Mental Tricks to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain,” or “Nutrition Survival Guide to the Festive Season.” Most of these encourage you to check your weight often, drink a full glass of water before you eat and even wear tighter clothing than normal.

During this already hectic season, constantly judging your health by a few digits, chugging water whether you’re thirsty or not and being uncomfortable in what you’re wearing is a recipe for holiday stress. As a nutrition educator, I love talking to kids about our “relationship” with food. As odd as that may sound, we truly do have a relationship with the foods we consume! This relationship is affected by the food choices we make and how we feel about those choices. Expecting to make decisions based only on health is unrealistic.

Even the greatest dieticians and nutritionists don’t follow diets based solely on nutritional health. Our diet choices are far more complex, affected by everything from personal memories and self-appreciation to sneaky marketing campaigns and convenience. Our relationship with food is constantly evolving, and it’s up to us to help it evolve in a positive direction. Holding ourselves to restrictive recommendations that pop up around the holidays could encourage a negative relationship with food.

Instead of encouraging holiday fear, let’s change the conversation to one of holiday cheer. Enjoy yourself, your family and your food a little bit more this season by practicing mindful eating.

Mindfulness is being deliberately aware of your experiences. It is noticing what’s happening both around you and within you. When it comes to eating, we can dive into mindfulness by stirring up a curiosity about our food. Here are two ways to help you start eating mindfully:

Ask Questions

Let your mind wonder about food again. What is this food made of? Where did it originate? How was it prepared? Is there a cultural significance behind it? The questions are endless, and each and every one of us is curious about different things. The questions don’t have to be answered for you to practice mindful eating; because mindfulness is awareness without judgment, the answers don’t matter much at all. Taking those internal inquisitive moments is enough to make your food more enjoyable and meaningful this holiday season.

Use All Five Senses

Eating is an experience, but we constantly sell ourselves and our senses short on that experience by distractedly eating. Permission granted to play with your food! This holiday, explore the subtle details of your feast. See the various colors, smell the aromas, listen to the crunch, feel the textures and taste every single morsel. Food can be fascinating if we let it.

Mindful eating does not ask you to actively make changes to your diet. You may find that the simple act of noticing is enough for you to self-regulate. You know what is best for your own body far more than the newest fad does.

This practice is very different than needing a scale, a glass of water and a tight belt. Unlike these tactics, mindful eating is a skill. You need nothing besides a willingness to have a fun and loving relationship with the delicious food that nourishes your body. Love every bite this holiday season!