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Importance of Mindful Eating During the Holidays

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays around the corner, Monarch therapists Dr. Karen S. Holst, MSW, LCSW, Ed.D. and Jude Johnson, MA, LMFT share why savoring your meals is key.
mindful eating

The rush of the holidays is almost here. With the endless to-do lists and holiday parties, it can often add more stress to our already busy lives, along with plenty of opportunities to overeat during parties and family gatherings.

During the holidays we often overeat in an effort to distract us from uncomfortable thoughts or feelings we may be experiencing in the moment; similar to smoking or having a drink. Johnson and Holst say that just as with using cigarettes or alcohol to help us manage what is currently going on in our minds, chronic eating can lead to undesirable consequences that affect our overall health and wellbeing.

Not feeling good about ourselves can also influence how often we eat, or if we are using food to distract us from uncomfortable thoughts or feelings. This can lead to a cycle; a vicious habit, and in these cases, eating is no longer associated with reducing hunger or providing nutrients to our bodies, it’s about avoidance, an attempt to push away what is actually happening in the mind.

The practice of mindfulness teaches us to learn to “be with whatever arises” even if it’s uncomfortable so we can become more familiar with the thoughts and feelings.  With the practice of mindfulness we no longer have to rely on reactive and often times addictive behaviors to manage our feelings.

Loading up on too many holiday sweet treats, full of carbohydrates and sugars, can throw your system and moods out of balance, but eating mindfully helps you to focus on the moment, enjoy what you are eating and savor the time you get to share with family and friends.

Here are more tips:

  • Eliminate distractions to the greatest extent possible. Turn off the television or radio, put away books or newspapers, and sit at the table with the intention of simply eating.
  • Think about your intention (eating) and give yourself the gift of being present in the moment to yourself.
  • Sit in silence for a moment and then observe the food before you, notice the colors, the textures, the smells coming from the plate. Think about all the hands and resources it took for this food to be where it is now.  
  • Continue eating until you no longer experience hunger. Being aware of, but not reacting to, any desires to finish quickly and move on to the next item on your to-do list.  
  • Stick to your regular routines of exercise and sleep
  • Enjoy and savor your favorite holiday treats rather than using them to cope with stress

Oftentimes, combating overeating and stress eating during the holidays is hard, we feel like we have to rush through a meal so we can get to the next task or cross something else off our holiday to-do list. But eating mindfully is a simple way to fight that urge, and give the gift of being in the present moment to yourself to enjoy your favorite holiday foods and traditions without overeating.

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