The food-filled holiday period is fast approaching. We love this time of year: sharing wonderful meals with loved ones; being grateful for the year past; and taking time to find a moment of peace. But many of us also find the holidays stressful, and according to the APA, they tend to affect women particularly so.
With so many distractions, food, and family- and expectation-related stress around, it’s common to start consuming our emotions in calories. What’s next are promises to punish ourselves with a severe crash diet, and a dark spell cast over what should be the simple enjoyment of enjoying an extra serving of creamy mashed potatoes.
To help eliminate these negative emotions we’re not going to try and ban ourselves from touching sugar over the holidays, and we’re not going to panic about failing to maintain our healthy habits every day. Instead, we’re going to focus on eating well, deliciously, and with mindful focus and intention.
Being surrounded by food during the holidays sometimes leads to a compulsive grasping of whatever dessert, sweet treat, or bottle of wine is in sight. But making one simple change to your approach to eating and drinking is all we need to resolve subconscious snacking: just take a moment to pause and breathe before every mouthful. In this second, think about whether you really want to eat what you’re being offered, and consider how it will make you feel. If you decide that you do want it, then dive in and enjoy. You’ll be amazed at how often you realize you don’t actually want something — because you’re not hungry, or don’t even like that particular dish!
Also try to notice when you’re eating out of boredom. If this happens repeatedly throughout the holidays, start suggesting non-food related activities, such as going for a walk, playing a game, or simply making a pot of tea.
We do love the holidays, but the combination of extended family time and high expectations can lead to increased stress. As research has shown, this often leads to us eating away our feelings. Try to distinguish between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Instead of eating away the anxiety caused by your mother-in-law, notice why you’re eating, take a breath, and think about whether you’re actually hungry. If you need something more than deep breathing to help alleviate your stress levels, turn to food and drinks that will help lower cortisol levels, such as black tea, chamomile tea, or a square of dark chocolate.
When you treat yourself to your favorite holiday foods, Try to concentrate on every bite of food, to actually savor every mouthful. Notice how wonderful it tastes, chew it well, and really recognize all the love, effort, and energy that has gone into every bite. Forcing yourself to put your fork down between each mouthful is a good way of making sure you slow down, and are eating with intention. In fact, slow and mindful, focused eating are both proven to decrease appetite and consumption.
And why not? Good food and wonderful company are all worthy of your appreciation and attention.