Are you already counting the pounds you will gain this holiday season? Many people feel obligated to prepare and eat traditional foods during the holidays in order to please Mom, Grandma and very heritage they were born into! It’s just the right thing to do-isn’t it? Our weight-obsessed society pulls out the stops and eats cookies, cakes, pies and breads in quantities they would never consider throughout the rest of the year. In fact, good manners dictate that you not only eat these foods, but gift them to others as well, and this seasonal eating frenzy results in weight gain, guilt, self-loathing and even depression. Happy Holidays!There are varying reports as to how much weight is gained during the holidays. According the New England Journal of Medicine, the real concern is that adults who gain the average one to two pounds during the holidays tend to keep that weight on for life. That means much of midlife weight gain can be explained as holiday eating. The journal sites a study from the Energy Metabolism Lab- USDA Human Nutrition Research center that concludes the news is worse for those who are already over-weight. They tend to gain an average of 5 pounds during the holiday season. These facts may have you already planning a post holiday diet, but why not take a proactive, preventative approach? A study from UCLA indicates the greatest indicator of an adult gaining weight over the next six months is whether or not they have been on a diet in the previous six months. It’s a boomerang. This fact has many turning to a new approach…..Conscious Eating.
Conscious eating is also known as intuitive eating, mindful eating, awareness while eating and even eating yoga. What it means in simple terms is paying attention to all dimensions of the food you eat and your eating experience. How do you know if you are conscious? Think of it as the difference between the way you drive normally and the way you drive when a police car is following you. Conscious eating means you fully recognize what, how, when and why you are eating. Dr. Susan Albers defines conscious eating as, “when you learn more about how and why you eat and less about what you eat. When you are so closely in touch with what is going on inside you, you know the exact moment you are satisfied rather than stuffed or starving.” The concept of conscious eating is giving rise to “Natural Weight Loss” programs that help people lose weight without counting calories and depriving themselves of the enjoyment of food. These programs teach you to listen to your body versus your mind. Think of it as eating “on purpose.”Try these tips for conscious eating that will guide you through this holiday season:
Make eating a stand-alone activity. Eat at your table or in a pleasing place that makes you smile! Do not eat while working on the computer, watching TV or driving.
Breathe…..before you begin. Taking as little as four deep breaths activates the Vagus nerve which relaxes you, slows down your heart rate and prepares your gastric juices for digestion. It takes the “rush” out of eating.
Look at your food before you eat it. Smell it. Pretend you have never seen this food before. Clear your mind of pre-conceived thoughts of “good food” or “bad food” or “the food you eat” for a particular holiday. Does this food look like you want to eat it? Which smells are appealing? Distinguish as many scents as you can.
Notice if you are really hungry or not. How hungry are you? Is your body telling you this or is it your mind? If a craving does not come from actual hunger, it will never be satisfied by food.
Chew your food. Buddhism teaches a meditation of chewing every bite 100 times. In our modern world, try 25 times or even 10 times. What texture is the bite? What memories does it evoke? Does it feel good? Savor those traditional holiday foods and remember why you loved them in the first place!
Sip only warm water while you are eating your meal. Warm water aids in digestion. Have that alcoholic drink if you choose during the holidays, but not during the meal. Alcohol numbs us and triggers a sugar craving cycle. We eat more and are less aware of what we are eating while consuming alcohol.
Consider the energy of the food you are eating. You are what you eat. Literally! The food you eat makes up your blood and all your cells. It speaks to your DNA. What do you want your food to do for you? Root vegetables ground you. Leafy greens lighten you up. Caffeine and alcohol make you tense. Brown rice brings you harmony. How do you want to feel? You are in control.
Modify those beloved holiday recipes. Don’t skip the traditions-just make them healthier. Substitute natural sweeteners like agave nectar or brown rice syrup for sugars. Use whole grains like quinoa and kasha instead of white rice and breads. Think of it as a chance to help your entire family get healthier.
Proactively plan for marathon family time. Does your family make the holiday a weekend long event? Over indulging often comes from sheer boredom. If you know you are going to be sitting around for hours on end with nothing else to do but eat….plan to do something else. Bring a good book or game with you. Plan to break up the day with a walk or some stretches. You’ll feel better and who knows? Maybe someone else will follow your example.
Enjoy one or two treats! Try decadent, organic dark chocolate….the good stuff. Choose the highest percentage of cocoa (natural chocolate bean) that you can find. Not only is it delicious, it is considered a Super Food for its high anti-oxidant properties. Sorry…regular chocolate chips don’t qualify.
Be kind to yourself this holiday. Stress can derail even the best eating habits and intentions. If this list overwhelms you, pick one thing to try at each event, and remember, it’s not about what you eat 10% of the time. It’s about what you eat 90% of the time. Be honest with yourself about how often you indulge. Re-define holiday fun by choosing the foods you want to experience. That way, you are in control!
Leah Lund is a certified holistic health counselor recognized by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Leah works with individuals who are struggling to manage their energy and weight. More information about Leah and Weigh to Live!, a natural weight loss program, is available at web: onewholehealth .com. As a health and nutrition speaker, Leah is available to support your group, business or organization.