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Mindful Eating During the Holidays

1 December 2020
A holiday table of food with people holding up their glasses

By Gretchen Minnehan, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for the YMCA of Greater Dayton

The holiday season may look different this year, but the sweets and holiday treats will certainly make their usual appearances. Most years there can be a lot of pressure to prepare and eat traditional holiday foods that are high in fat, sugar, and calories all the while feeling guilty for “indulging” in these foods. This sort of thinking takes us out of the holidays and instead raises concern over the foods we are trying to enjoy. 

One approach to relieve these thoughts is to practice more mindfulness around the holidays. It begins by letting go of all the external cues for hunger around the holidays and tuning into your own body’s hunger cues!

Start by sitting down to eat meals and snacks. If we are standing up it usually means we are multitasking while snacking and not paying attention to our own hunger cues. You will enjoy your food more and anticipate fullness better when sitting.

Strive to have balanced meals throughout the day, even with a get together in the evening or over lunchtime. When we skip out on a balanced breakfast and lunch in an attempt to “prepare” for the party, we have a higher likelihood of overeating than if we nourished ourselves with regular meals during the day. 

Allow yourself to notice hunger. Especially during the holidays, we are moving so fast that we may miss hunger cues. Or, we are supplementing with cookies or other sweets throughout the day that you never feel hunger. Take time to notice it, and when you do prepare a balanced meal for yourself. 

Lastly, slow down. Rather than making the holidays feel like one big marathon of a day take time to yourself. It will help you reflect on what you really need in that moment or that day. Perhaps you need to rest, or have time to yourself, maybe someone needs your help with a task, or time outside is calling. All of these activities take you out and away from the kitchen where anxiety and stress have us turn toward readymade holiday treats. 

The more you practice mindful eating the more it will become habit, both in your every day and each holiday.