It is that time of year again! You’re spending quality time with family and friends, running around planning and preparing for the holidays, and of course eating all of your favorite holiday foods. Although this is a beautiful time to show our love and gratitude, it can also be a stressful time as you rush to meet deadlines. This post is about how mindfulness, especially around food, can keep you happy and healthy throughout this holiday season, and into the New Year.

Mindfulness means being in the present and maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, emotions, physical body, and your environment. It involves acceptance, where you acknowledge your thoughts and feelings without judgment, accept them, and then move forward without negatively or obsessively dwelling on them. Mindfulness is living in the present, experiencing everything this moment has to offer, without bringing up the past or looking to the future.

Mindfulness is a worthy intention for the holiday season, but most importantly with our food choices and eating practices. So often, we eat mindlessly, stuffing food into our mouths while working, watching TV, or when we’re running errands. Our meal is gone before we even had a chance to taste it! The ultimate pleasure of eating is in really slowing down and truly experiencing it through all the senses.

A mindful eating practice helps you become aware of the reasons behind your hunger, whether that’s actual hunger, or emotions, tradition, or habit. It’s important to eat for physical reasons, rather than emotional reasons, as the food you choose to put into your body truly builds you – you are what you eat.

We are born with internal hunger and satiety cues to guide us in when what, and how much we eat. Mindful eating practices are essential for everyone, especially those that have suffered from disordered eating patterns, or who feel like food controls their life.

Here are eight tips for eating mindfully not only throughout the holidays, but for life.

Prepare. Cooking for yourself is the best way to prepare your body to eat mindfully. The sights and smells ready your body to eat and digest your food properly.

Turn off televisions and put away electronics. Allow yourself to hold a safe and peaceful space for one thing: eating. Experience eating, be aware of eating and don’t let yourself get to a point where you just ate a whole plate and didn’t even taste it.

Make sure to sit down and be still. It’s important to take time out of the day to eat. Take a deep breath, center yourself, and give yourself permission to taste and enjoy the food in front of you.

Develop a mealtime ritual. This may include setting the table or turning on some relaxing music to enjoy during the meal.

Connect. When eating alone, connect to your mind and body. Taste, chew, enjoy. Pay attention to your body’s reaction. When dining with family or friends, connect with them over the meal. Talk about the food together.

Take in the food with all of your senses. Sight, smell, taste, texture, sound. Try to identify different ingredients and flavors. This can be very healing for anyone looking to heal their relationship to food.

Listen to your body. Recognize when you have had enough to eat, or when you want more as this is natural and healthy. A significant sign of fullness is that food becomes less appealing, or doesn’t taste as good as it did when you first began the meal. Significant intake of sugar and processed foods can also disrupt the body’s natural fullness cues. If you find yourself eating uncontrollably, you may need to limit the amount of food you put on your plate at first. Waiting five minutes before getting seconds can also help your body become more attuned to hunger and fullness cues.

Lose the diet mindset. When you are mindful, cravings tend to change from just salty or sweet to what your body really needs … specific vitamins and minerals. Mindful eating is a journey – be aware of it, enjoy it, and share it with others.

Eating mindfully is not a diet, it is a mindset, a lifestyle. As you get back in touch with your natural instincts and listen to  your body truly, you’ll naturally begin to give it waht it wants and needs at any given time. Mindfulness takes time and dedication to truly master. Work your way up to eating mindfully each day, and forgive yourself when you don’t. Trust your instincts and your body, and be patient with yourself as you enjoy the process of building a stronger mind-body connection and improving your relationship with food.

In good health,

Mary Kate Gowdy

Mary Kate Gowdy, MS, CHHP, RMTP

Mary Kate is an Integrative Clinical Nutritionist, AADP Board Certified Holistic Health Coach, and Reiki Master Teacher/Practitioner. Learn more about Mary Kate HERE.