Mindfulness Tips to Survive the Holidays

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and so is the abundance of special foods we treasure during the holidays. Perhaps you already have your holiday menu planned or maybe you’re still trying to pick out which dish you want to bring. Either way, there is without a doubt at least one food you are excited to enjoy alongside your family and friends. Did you know you can enjoy your special foods, and still stay healthy? Using some mindful eating strategies from Megan Haubenreiser at essmweighless.com, you can get the most out of the season and not miss those foods you love, while staying on a healthy track.

Mindful eating is a powerful tool that can help you become more aware of the foods you eat. Mindful eating simply means paying close attention, enjoying every bite, and being hyper-aware of the entire eating experience. Below are a few strategies that can help you be more mindful so you can fully enjoy a healthy happy holiday.

  1. Plan your Holiday Season
  • Pick and choose carefully the things that are most important to you. It is not possible to include all of the events, parties, visits, travel that COULD be included in your holiday. Instead of trying to cram it all in and not enjoying the season, be selective.
  • Say no to the events that don’t fit into your must-do holiday activities.
  1. Determine which foods are “calorie worthy” to you
  • Imagine your food calorie budget like your financial budget. We do not have unlimited money to spend, just like we don’t have unlimited calories to consume, so pick the foods that you enjoy the most.
  • Determine if a food is one of your favorite food items and/or if it is packed with nutrients to help you decide whether to fit it into your calorie budget.
  • Let it go if you don’t like it; just because it is on your plate does not mean you have to finish it.
  • One-bite studies show that people who just consumed one bite of a certain food satisfied their craving just as much as the people who ate the entire food item.
  1. Survive Holiday Parties
  • Determine if this party will be your lunch or dinner and eat accordingly beforehand. If it is going to be your full meal, have a small healthy snack like an apple with peanut butter before the party. If it is not going to be your meal, eat something more filling before attending like whole-wheat toast with avocado.
  • Remember that the buffet is not necessarily your buffet. The variety and amount of foods on the table are there to provide enough options for guests to be able to find something they like. Zero-in on your favorites instead of trying everything.
  • Position yourself away from the food and drinks. Studies show that the closer you are to the food table, the more likely you are to eat even if you are not hungry.
  • Hold your beverage glass. If you leave your glass sitting on the table, people will often come by and refill it. This lessens your control over how much you are consuming, and you may not be aware of how much you have had by the end of the party.
  1. Sleep- don’t skip it!
  • Stick with your normal routine even during the holidays to try to get at least 7-8 hours each night. Sleeping too little has been associated with increased appetite and decreased physical activity.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon or evening.
  • Limit alcohol or heavy foods late at night.
  • Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary by turning off electronics and maintaining a cool temperature.
  1. Stay Active
  • Try out a new physical activity with the time you may have off from work or school.
  • Reduce stress with physical activity. Changes in schedules may allow you to vary your typical exercise times. Try yoga in the morning or take a long walk around lunchtime.
  • Stay active to burn off holiday eating – even mindful holiday eating can mean more calories than we need.

Want more weight management support during the holidays? Join our FREE 7-week Holiday Challenge to receive daily tips, recipes, challenges, and newsletters to help you stay on track. The N.C. Cooperative Extension of Sampson County office is also offering grand prize drawings for those who participate at least 5 of the 7 weeks. Call our office to learn more! The Holiday Challenge runs from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. Register for the Holiday Challenge.