The holidays are right around the corner. While celebrations may look a little different this year, you may still find yourself wondering how to balance your health and holiday fare. Whether it’s a family Thanksgiving gathering on your mind or just what to do with the kid’s leftover Halloween candy, here are 6 ways to manage cravings, eat mindfully and avoid weight worry this holiday season.
1. Listen to Hunger and Fullness Cues
Before a big holiday meal, consider taking a deep breath and gauge your hunger levels. Then, check-in again midway through the meal and then again when the plate is not as full. It may even help to visualize the amount of hunger versus fullness present or give it a rating from 1-5.
2. Savor Each Bite
Try eating more mindfully. Slow down, and enjoy every morsel. What are the textures? Flavors and notes? Zeroing in on these can increase pleasure in eating and decrease chances of eating beyond fullness. Focusing on how we are eating combined with an approach of self-compassion over self-judgment may positively affect body composition. Mindful eating techniques combined with an attitude of self-compassion over self-judgement can help weight maintenance.
3. Give Thanks
Holiday gatherings can be times when we try to compare ourselves and our bodies to others. Avoid getting stuck in the cycle of comparison, self-criticism and defeat which can often lead not only to negative emotions, but to overeating out of shame.
Instead, try gratitude. What can you be thankful for about your body as it is right now? What are the ways you support your health each week that you can be grateful for? Shifting attention to the ways we take care of our bodies instead of the ways in which we don’t measure up to outside standards can decrease stress and increase positive emotions. This can mean less stress eating.
4. Get to Know Types of Hunger
In her book Mindful Eating, Jan Chozen Bays, M.D. describes different types of hunger.
Heart hunger can also be called emotional eating. Most of the time this will not be satisfied with food alone but can actually be a hunger for connection to others and the things that bring us joy.
Eye hunger deals with our sense of sight. The saying “My eyes were bigger than my stomach” comes into play. This could mean getting that beautiful looking dessert even though we’re full. To satisfy eye hunger, think of all the sensory ways you can take in the richness of the eating experience. A beautiful table setting, the people at the table with you, the colors and visual textures of the foods on your plate can all help satisfy eye hunger.
Ever been taken by the scent of freshly baked pretzels or cinnamon rolls in the mall? Nose hunger deals with our sense of smell. To satisfy nose hunger, engage in your sense of smell when cooking and eating.
Is your mouth hungry? Mouth hunger deals with cravings for the textures of particular foods--creamy, light, crunchy, etc.
Mind hunger can refer to an internal dialogue of whether or not we should or shouldn’t eat at a certain time, or eat a certain food.
Cellular hunger can describe what particular nutrients our cells are crying out far. By slowing down and being intentional to focus on what our bodies need, we can more easily determine what our bodies truly are craving in the moment--be it a micronutrient like salt or a macronutrient like protein.
5. Make a Plan for Cravings
What do you do with cravings? Mindfulness interventions may aid in coping with cravings. Having a plan in place can help in the moment. If you’re a visual learner or the type of person who values making lists, consider writing out an action plan. This can be done by taking a piece of paper and dividing it into 4 quadrants and utilizing the questions below. Some may find value in keeping their action plan on the fridge, in the pantry or tucked away in their bag or wallet.
Step 1: Wait
Give yourself a set number of minutes before eating. Ask yourself how long you want to delay the choice to eat or not. Is it 10, 20 or 60 minutes? Write this in the first quadrant: I will delay for ____ minutes.
Step 2: Refocus
Find something that will keep your attention and take your mind off the decision. Maybe you want to water the plants, do some filing or play the piano. You may want to turn to physical activity such as a quick walk. On your action plan, brainstorm a list of activities you might like to do and how long you could do them for: Things I can do instead are ______.
Step 3: Move
Put space between you and the food. This might mean moving the candy and cookie jars or deciding to move your laptop and workspace away from where others are eating.
Secondly, ask yourself if you need to move closer to something non-food related that you are really hungry for. Sometimes we hunger for something that isn’t related to food. When this happens, it is helpful to pause and ask yourself, “What am I hungry for?” Allow yourself to think beyond food. When you do this, you can begin to include some other needs you hunger for. The work by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. acknowledges that every person has some basic needs. These include:
- Sustenance (food, nourishment for body, mind and spirit)
- Rest, Relaxation and Play
Emotionally, are there things you are too distant from? On the third quadrant of your paper, consider writing questions about distance: What things do I need to move away from? What things do I need to move closer to?
Step 4: Assess
Figure out how hungry you are. Ask yourself “On a scale of 1-10, how much do I want to eat?” On your action plan, you can jot down any questions that help you make this decision or the number(s) that would signal to you that you really want food right now.
Step 5: Choose
Decide what it is that you’re really craving. Is it something salty, crunchy, hot, cold, sour, creamy, or something else? Once you decide, portion your food and enjoy. On the back of your action plan, write the word “Enjoy!” This can serve as a reminder to make sure you set the stage for appreciation of the eating experience. Do you want to put it on a nice plate? Would it be better enjoyed over pleasant conversation? Want to turn on your favorite music?
What differences would you notice if you ate your favorite snack out of a bag, standing in front of the pantry versus sitting down? Creating a pleasant experience can not only increase the joy found in eating but also can provide boundaries for a beginning and end.
6. Use Kindness to Keep Season’s Eatings Merry
Spent more time with sweets than you wanted? Swapping a judgmental voice toward ourselves for one of kindness can help us prevent a cycle of shame eating. According to the founders of Intuitive Eating⸺Evelyn Tribole, RD and Elyse Resch, RD⸺eating for joy and health are components of a balanced approach to food. “It’s what you consistently eat over time that matters. Progress, not perfection, is what counts.”
Happy, Healthy Holidays
Thinking about other ways to increase your health this holiday season? Our practitioners partner with patients to help create health all year long. Contact us to schedule an appointment or to ask a question about our services. From our ozone sauna detox chamber to targeted supplementation, we have many tools to assist patients’ health and wellness.