6 Mindful Tips for Holiday Parties
Kitty Finklea, RDN, LDN, AFAA-CPT
Eating mindfully over the holidays may seem like another stressor with all the delicious and tempting food options. And it’s fun to enjoy all the special foods we love. Did you know that with mindful eating, you can enjoy the treats and traditional holiday foods without overeating and feeling guilty later? Dieters focus on food rules, while mindful eating is an approach to food that focuses on sensory awareness and the experience of eating without judgement. By becoming more aware of hunger and fullness cues, slowing down, and focusing on taste and texture, mindfulness can help you eat less and still enjoy what you’re eating.
While eating mindfully is a practice that can have a learning curve, tuning in more and paying attention when eating is a good start to enjoying the holiday season without guilt and shame. Holiday parties and celebrations are a great time to explore and adopt any of these guidelines to help you feel more in control while enjoying meals and treats.
Eat regular meals and snacks. Skipping meals or under-eating leads to being overly hungry and derails common sense and willpower. If meals are more than four-five hours apart, include a snack to keep you satiated. Foods with protein and fiber keep you full longer so include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and nuts along with whole grains, veggies, and fruits at meals and snacks.
Have a snack before parties and potlucks. Walking into an event hungry usually means “anything goes” and can cause you to make food choices you otherwise would not. Enjoying cheese or nuts with fruit, half of a sandwich, a protein bar, or a shake prior to an event with food will help calm the strong urge to eat and help inspire more reasonable choices.
Tour the buffet. Look over the entire buffet and make conscious decisions about what you want instead of piling everything on without thinking. Research indicates people heap on the first three foods in the lineup, increasing risk of going back for seconds to get other desired foods. Mindful eating means taking the time to decide what you really want.
Taste your food mindfully. Aim to slow down and finish a bite before taking another one. Enjoy and become more aware of flavor and texture. Even if distracted at a party, regularly take a few seconds to check in as opposed to mindlessly chewing. Instead of standing while eating, take a few minutes to sit and focus more on the flavors. Tuning into the flavors of food can help you eat less over time.
Lean in to fullness cues. The mouth never gets tired of tasting! Instead of letting the mouth rule and eating until stuffed, pay attention to fullness cues and stop when satisfied or full instead of stuffed.
Take 5. Pause for at least five minutes before going back for seconds. Since it takes 15-20 minutes for fullness signals to hit the brain, waiting can increase feelings of satisfaction and lessen the desire for a second trip.
Other mindful tactics are eating with your non-dominant hand or making a fist and quietly saying no to extra portions and treats. You can also place your attention on holiday sights and sounds and connecting with others instead of eating. Mindful eating means taking the time to savor delicious holiday foods, and by being present with eating, enjoyment increases and control over food becomes second nature. What a wonderful holiday gift for yourself that lasts long beyond the season!
Kitty Finklea is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified personal trainer and health writer at HopeHealth. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.