One of the greatest pleasures of the holidays can also be one of our greatest struggles: Food. Let’s get one thing straight: There’s nothing wrong with savoring your favorite holiday treats. But the key word here is ‘savor.’ And if we’re being honest, that’s not exactly how our holiday eating goes down.
What really happens: Thoughts run like a ticker tape through our brain. It’s a special occasion. Pie is not a crime. I’m not hungry, but I don’t want to hurt Aunt Pat’s feelings. I’ll go low-carb after the New Year. I deserve it!
Then there’s the fallout: The guilt, the regret. The justifications. The answer isn’t to not eat of course—but to engage in mindful eating, or the practice of being in control and fully aware of what you eat, and why, so that you can actually enjoy what you eat more—and eat less.
Here are a few tips for eating mindfully this holiday season:
1. Hit pause. Stop and ask yourself what you were doing when that craving hit. Were you feeling bored? Stressed? Frustrated? Lonely? This helps you identify the problem that you were using food to solve. Ask yourself what can be done to achieve what you need without eating mindlessly. For instance, if you’re bored, shift gears—go for a walk, take a break. If you’re feeling lonely or stressed, you’ll probably get far more fulfillment from reaching out to a friend than from a Santa-shaped cookie.
2. Switch your story. What thoughts are circling in your mind when you indulge in something delicious? If you’re constantly criticizing yourself, challenge those thoughts.
How? By Uncoupling reward and punishment from eating: Rather than telling yourself you’re being “bad” by enjoying a good thing and judging every choice, understand why you’re making them. Strive for balance, rather than being overly restrictive or indulgent. Enjoy the treats and be good to your body. Most importantly, be kind to yourself: Acknowledge the negative thoughts, and then let them go.
3. Focus on the food. The best way to truly appreciate your favorite foods is to enjoy them without distraction. What fun is a slice of homemade pie if you’re eating it while checking email? Promise yourself that when it’s time to enjoy a meal, you’ll turn off the TV, put your phone down, and be present to the experience of eating. Recruit all of your senses and allow yourself the full, unadulterated pleasure of food by actually being there for it. Savoring cannot be multitasked.
Terri Trespicio is a New York–based lifestyle writer. For nearly a decade, she served as a senior editor and radio host at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Her work has appeared in Jezebel, XOJane, Marie Claire, Prevention, MindBodyGreen, and DailyWorth. Find her on Twitter @TerriT