Top tips for mindful eating over the holidays

The Christmas holidays are packed with treats and the potential for overindulgence. Nutrition coach Michelle Yandle shares her top tips for getting the most out of Christmas eating – without over doing it.

Over the Christmas holidays, we tend to be bombarded with an overabundance of every sweet and salty treat that we can imagine.

Christmas, of all times, should never be a time for deprivation but we also don’t want to overdo if it will make us feel mentally and physically unwell, because that’s not a fun way to get through the holidays!

Mindful eating can help. It’s the ultimate when it comes to getting the healthy foods we love while making room for the occasional Christmas treat, guilt-free!

The opposite, mindless eating is consuming food just because it’s there. It’s eating while distracted – watching TV, working at a computer or texting on our smartphones. It’s eating for emotional comfort instead of for hunger. Basically, it’s not paying attention to what we eat and why we eat.

When we pay attention to what we’re doing and why – we’re breaking the ‘highway hypnosis’ of eating, which can slow us down, allow us to consume less, and still be incredibly satisfied. No diets necessary!

Best of all, when we take the time to enjoy Christmas treats with our full attention – it magnifies the deliciousness! Think chocolate truffles x10! We’re also left feeling a lot more satisfied.

So how can we engage in more mindful eating this Christmas? Here are my 5 top tips.

1. Practice awareness: Before you eat anything I encourage you to practice asking: Am I Hungry?” this gives us time to stop and pause before mindlessly consuming that entire fruitcake. If you are hungry – ask yourself what it is that you need to feel physically AND mentally well and good and then proceed to tip #2.  If you’re not hungry – you still have the right to eat, you’re just making a conscious choice to do so.

2. Sit down to eat: No matter what, aim to always sit down to eat. This will help you to pay attention to your food as well as optimise digestion. Remove any distractions, turn off the smartphone, the TV  or whatever else might be taking your focus away and simply sit and enjoy your food. No matter what you’ve chosen, take the time to chew your food thoroughly and remember to practice saying thank-you for every delicious bite.

3. Have the best bite first: I know this is the opposite of what you’ve no doubt heard or done in the past but having the best bite first can prevent overeating. Hunger is the best seasoning and so when we take to enjoy the best bite first we’re allowing the ultimate flavour experience. Not only that but if the best part is already gone, we’re less likely to feel the need to finish the rest of our plate just to get to the good part.

4. Focus on fun not food: Christmas time is so much more than simply food. Why not make it about spending time with family, getting outside in the summer sun, getting movement or simply enjoying a much-needed rest.  Often we turn to food for comfort or distraction, so if we can get more out of life and live the life we crave, food will lose its power.

5. Sooth the stress without food: Do you find yourself reaching for comfort foods in time of stress?  Considering the amount of stress that Christmas can bring, this can be a no doubt difficult time for emotional eaters. The truth is though, if you’re not hungry, to begin with, no amount of food will satisfy.  This holiday season, try to find some alternatives to sooth your daily stresses. Filling yourself up with some self-care, doing deep breathing or getting outside are all ways to sooth without food.

The biggest thing though to remember is to practice compassion. If you indulge in glorious Christmas treats, you haven’t fallen off a wagon or ruined anything you’ve simply enjoyed some tasty food. Life and eating well is about balance, and so as long as we can learn from experiences and apply that knowledge, our health will not suffer.

  • Michelle Yandle is an international speaker, author, nutrition coach and online educator empowering people to have healthy bodies without comprising a healthy relationship with food. You can find her at www.michelleyandle.com