The pure essence of the holidays is to spend time with friends and family, giving thanks for what we have, offering gifts and being more generous. However, the holidays can be perceived as stressful on top of an already full plate. There are people, parties, friends, travel and family all around. Is there a part of you that craves less, not more?
When we are stressed, many of us struggle to maintain healthy eating habits. Here are seven tried-and-true research-based practices that can help you NOT gain weight this holiday season:
When you feel stressed, you can simply take a big belly breath (several would be even better). This slows down your nervous system. Breathing is a practice in releasing, opening and receiving the blessing of life.
2. Eat slowly.
“Ooh this is delicious!” The only way to keep that “first-bite” experience is to eat slowly, with moderate pauses between bites. When you do anything else while eating (talking, walking, writing, driving), the flavor diminishes or disappears. Try taking your first three bites, mindfully.
3. Be mindful of hunger.
Before eating, on a scale of 1–10, how hungry are you and what sensations tell you that? If you aren’t physically hungry, let that be your guide. Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment. It helps us to be in our bodies and out of our heads. It doesn’t matter if the clock says its lunchtime or if you have food in front of you. If you listen, your body will tell you when to eat and when enough is enough.
4. Make mindful choices.
It’s your body; choose what you want to put in it. During big holiday meals, we often want to try everything. But before picking up a plate, try this: First, gauge your hunger level. How hungry are you? Choose how much food you want based on your hunger. Now, look at all the choices and pick the ones you most want to try. Commit to one moderate plate of food, eat it slowly, and savor it. As you are eating, you can choose to eat what tastes good and leave the rest on the plate, or try something else.
5. Distinguish between desire and craving.
Did you know that stress can intensify our food cravings? Food, particularly sugary foods, can be soothing, and eating can actually dampen the stress response and calm our nervous systems.
If the holidays are causing you stress, breathe, and ask yourself, “What do I feel?” and “What do I need?” Can you just be with the food craving instead of acting on it? I often feel like I want chocolate in the middle of the day, but then I say, “You just had lunch, do you really want it?” If I hear myself say “maybe,” I wait. If the craving goes away, I just let it go, but if it’s still there then I ask myself again, “Do you really want this?” Being mindful of cravings means that we listen to what we want and need, and make a conscious choice.
6. Practice generosity.
Generosity is the practice of having enough so that you can give it away. Those who are truly wealthy are the ones who give generously. We can give to ourselves, others and our greater communities by understanding how to use food as love. When we cook, eat, and share food together, we practice generosity.
7. Express gratitude.
Research shows that gratitude increases our inclination to be caring, compassionate, honest and respectful. Bring more gratitude into your life by asking yourself: “Am I expressing my gratitude to the people in my life?”
At this time of year we see that the weather is changing. You can mirror this change in your own life with the practice of letting go. In replacing old beliefs and habits that don’t serve you, the doors are open for new ways of being that promote happiness, health and greater peace. You can start right now to live a fully nourished life with the online Mindfully Nourished Digital Course.
May your holidays be full of new possibilities, slowness and blessings.