This has been quite a year! The holiday season might look different, but we will all find ways to be merry- often gathering around food being the main focus.
How does one remain health-conscious about their eating and avoid weight gain around this time of year?
The key is to stay MINDFUL.
It is a time to gather (with cautions this year!)
It is a time to enjoy.
It is a time to indulge.
It does not have to be a time to completely sabotage your health journey. Right?
There are no “off limit” foods, but a little thought, planning, and grace can go a long way. How?
Let’s discuss some tips for mindful eating:
Eat ahead of time: If you know you are going to have a meal with lots of tempting foods, consider eating something more “wholesome” before the meal. If you are not famished, you might try a little bit of everything and prevent piling on huge amounts of foods on your plate. Drinking water beforehand can be helpful too!
Eat the foods with fiber & protein first: When enjoying the holiday cooking, opt to eat the veggies and proteins first- this can not only help to fill up on the “good stuff” first, but for those with insulin resistance (prediabetes/type 2 diabetes), this meal order can prevent a spike in blood sugar and insulin.
Don’t let any food be a forbidden food and let go of the guilt!: It is all a mind game. If you know you can’t have something, you want it! Right? Tell yourself you can have whatever you want, but you get to choose how much. Choose which meals you want to indulge- as in not every meal for a month! Choose which treats you are going to treat yourself to. You made a choice- own it and don’t ruin it with feeling guilty after!
Play with your food: Can you challenge yourself to come up with ways to make the classic dishes more wholesome and nutritious? There are lots of ways to do this and still preserving the flavor and tradition! Go online if you are needing creative inspirations- lots of ideas out there.
“Fake the drink”: We know alcohol lowers inhibitions and can make mindful eating difficult. Guess what? No one knows whether your drink has alcohol in it or not. In social settings, often friends who are enjoying cocktails want others to indulge with them. If you are only having a club soda with lime, no one will know! If you do choose to indulge, be mindful about the effects. And beware of the added sugar in those specialty cocktails- try not to overdo those!
Keep moving: This is a good time to keep up with exercise. Go for a family walk if the weather allows. The exercise not only can help to keep weight gain in check, but can also help to boost your mood and energy.
Get your ZZZs: Lack of enough good sleep can affect hunger and satiety hormones, leaving you feeling hungry. It is hard to practice mindful eating when you are tired and hungry! Be sure to aim for around 7 hours.
Manage stress: The holidays can be a stressful time, can bring up tensions and this year even more so. Be sure to care for the WHOLE you. Build in down time, even for 10 mins a day. Some ways you can do this are to enjoy a short walk, get some sun, talk to a friend, meditate, spend time with your pet, and get off those devices!
Remember why you are together. This time around the holidays is a time you want to enjoy with loved ones. Yes, food is a focal point. Keeping in mind that it is also about the company, sharing stories and coming together.
Don’t let the holiday season be an excuse to let go and completely negate all your hard work. Enjoy the moment, mindfully.
The greatest gift you can give yourself this holiday is self-love. Make yourself and your health a priority!
Richa Mittal MD