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Making an effort to be mindful of what you eat can be helpful in maintaining a healthy relationship with food at any time of year, but especially during the winter holidays when it can be easy to overindulge.
As you head into your parties and gatherings with family and friends in the coming weeks and months, keep these 10 mindful eating strategies in mind. A big shout out to the Mind Pump podcast for contributing several of these useful ideas!
Don’t allow a few meals to send you into a spiral of indifference
If you struggle with an all or nothing mindset, you may be left feeling defeated or guilty if you overeat or indulge for a few days (or weeks). You might be tempted to just give up on your health goals after that because you fell off the wagon. Try not to let those feelings creep in; you’re not a failure for enjoying yourself! You can absolutely still meet your health and fitness goals – one holiday or set of holidays isn’t going to stop you. Enjoy your time with family and friends, eat some delicious food, but keep your long-term goals in mind as you go forward. Instead of continuing to indulge, think about what type of food and activity will get you there.
Give your digestion some help with enzymes
Enzyme capsules are helpful to take prior to eating that giant plate of mashed potatoes as they will assist with the digestion of starches, protein, and fats. In addition to helping with digestion and absorption of nutrients, they also help to support a healthy gut. Digestive enzymes have helped me feel less bloated especially when I consume foods that my body doesn’t process well, like dairy and grains.
If you’re going to indulge, do it with meaningful recipes
Skip the store-bought treats and focus on the meaningful recipes that you only get during the holidays. You know what I’m talking about – things like your grandma’s homemade cobbler, your Uncle’s pot pie, or your best friend’s banana pudding! Don’t waste your indulgences on the food you could eat any day of the year – connect with your heritage and enjoy it!
Stay hydrated before meals
Did you know you often feel hungry because you are dehydrated? Stay hydrated with plenty of water, and this will help to moderate your appetite. I know I’ll be enjoying some egg nog and hot chocolate this season, but other than that I generally try to avoid drinking my calories and don’t consume soda. Try enjoying a spiced tea instead!
Switch hands with each bite you take
This may seem silly, but you may be surprised how well it works! Since you’ll have to use areas of your brain that may not see much action, it will slow down the pace of your meal, allowing you to enjoy your food and realize when you may be getting full instead of just shoveling the food in and going back for seconds.
Focus on socializing rather than eating
Spend time catching up with friends and family as your main focus before you fill your plate and prioritize making connections before filling your belly. This can be hard when you’re starving and you want to grab one of everything that smells so good! Switching your focus to others before yourself can be quite rewarding.
Eat protein and complex carbs first
Start by filling up your plate with vegetables and protein first. When you begin with protein that helps with satiety, it’s easier to enjoy some simple carbs and desserts after that without being as inclined to overeat. Some people find that using smaller plates also helps them to avoid overeating.
Start a healthy movement tradition
All I normally want to do after a large meal is take a nap, but getting in some movement is a better choice to help with digestion and reduce that uncomfortably full sensation. The movement can be as simple as going for a walk, a little cornhole outside, or even a scavenger hunt. You can also be pre-emptive with your movement and start the day with a fun holiday-themed 5k.
Bring a healthy dish to your gatherings
If you have special dietary needs or just want to stay on track with your health goals, one surefire way to make sure you will have something healthy to eat is by bringing something you made. I have a few food allergies, so I feel more comfortable when I’m able to bring a dish I know I can enjoy if there aren’t many other options that fit my needs.
Avoid stress eating
I’m so bad about this. When I have a stressful day at work, which often happens during the 4th quarter of the year, I always seem to crave the most sugary, carb-laden snacks I can find as my “reward” to help me make it through the day. The quick fix gives me a temporary boost, but I never end up feeling well at the end of the day when I do that. Instead of using food as a reward, try using one of these self-care ideas instead (I’m still trying to learn this lesson!)
Which of these strategies do you think will be most helpful for you?
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Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!
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