Adopt a Mindful Approach to the Holidays

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK/SCYTHER5

 

Most of our lack of control during this time of year, which tends to lead us toward yo-yo dieting, is because of the mindless eating practices we follow the rest of the year. I often recommend a "no-diet" approach during the holiday season. This doesn't mean saying no to everything — rather it means saying yes to a healthy relationship with food. Here are three ways to accomplish this during the month of December. 

Take the 10-Chew Test 

It takes about 10 chews for your mind to get the maximum satisfaction out of what you eat. Our favorite “cheat foods” are often extremes on the sweet, salty or fatty spectrum. All of these tastes send positive, happy signals to our brains. When you are served Grandma’s famous pie or your other favorite holiday foods, chew each bite at least 10 times. This allows you to enjoy the food more, meaning it will be easier to push away from the table when both your brain and belly are happy.  

Avoid Substitutes — the Truth about Food Fretting 

When we classify foods as “bad,” we fall into a cycle that looks like this: “I cheated and ate a piece of cake so the rest of my day is ruined.” This food categorization confuses us, meshing the positive emotions and brain signals created when we eat food like a piece of cake with a negative thought: “I failed because I ate this.” This emotional turmoil leads to stress, which usually ends in emotional eating. Instead of engaging in the negative cycle of subbing your favorite cake for a healthier version, eat the cake — or whatever your favorite food is — but eat it more mindfully. This is a perfect opportunity to try out the 10-chew test.  

Share Your Favorite Foods Online 

A recent study found that taking pictures of food and sharing them on social media actually increases our enjoyment of what we eat.  While you may not need to post that picture of your Thanksgiving turkey or pumpkin pie — since you probably already enjoy that enough — posting pictures of fruits and vegetables is a great way to enjoy them more! The delay in eating causes you to want the food more, and improves your experience.  

Just like learning any new skill, learning to follow the no-diet approach takes practice. You don’t need to be perfect to stay healthy this holiday season, but by incorporating these tips, you can mindfully eat your way through the holidays.   

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Bethany Frazier

Bethany Frazier, MS, RD, LDN, coaches individual clients, provides support for acute care patients and serves as a media spokesperson. She blogs at www.kansascitydietitian.com on a variety of topics, and her specialties are IBS, FODMAPS, GI Issues, Sports Nutrition and Weight Loss (Mindful Eating).