Welcome to the season of holiday eating. It’s a time of treats, memory and emotion-laden indulgences, and once-a-year temptations. The candy dishes and cookie trays and holiday parties are everywhere until January (when the world becomes obsessed with controlling your weight and selling you success with not eating).
Are you wondering how to enjoy holiday eating or how to make this a season of joy and delight instead of a season of overkill that leaves you feeling bloated, off-track, or frustrated with yourself in January?
The key is a balanced approach – one that honors the special and unique times and treats of the season, but also helps you preserve your wellbeing and gives you enough structure to stay on track with your goals.
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Strategies to make holiday eating work for you:
Savoring is when you completely and fully experience and enjoy the food that you’re eating. In our world of working through lunch and multitasking through everything, savoring has become a lost art.
Have you ever eaten an appetizer at a party mindlessly without even really noticing it? Or finished your dessert even though it wasn’t very good? Making a commitment to savor your food (and not eating what you aren’t completely enjoying) can change both situations.
People who take the time to savor their food feel more satisfied with what they’ve eaten – and they eat less. Being fully present allows you to notice the taste of your food and to be aware of when you’ve stopped enjoying it. If you are fully present while you are eating, you’re more able to recognize when you are full instead of mindlessly finishing a meal.
A plan of attack for savoring holiday eating
It always helps to be proactive. Instead of hoping you can get by with self-discipline, think about the special holiday foods or occasions you’ll likely encounter this year. What are the once-a-year treats that you don’t want to miss? You’ll want to squeeze every ounce of goodness from these experiences. Commit to savoring when you indulge in these wonderful foods. This means you’ll give yourself the gift of being hungry when you eat them and you will allow yourself to be present while you eat them – so you can taste, feel, smell, and soak in the delight. When you savor you’ll be present enough to know when you really feel satisfied. When you are one hundred percent present with your eating, you’ll know when the pleasure is wearing off or you’re getting too full.
Permission to savor means you can stop because you know you have permission to savor again when you are hungry. A commitment to savoring means permitting yourself to fully indulge – and to stop once the experience has peaked. You don’t ever have to eat or drink the whole thing.
Savoring also requires space. You can’t savor if you’re distracting yourself because you feel guilty that you’re eating, or if you’re eating on the run (or in your car), or if you are scarfing it down because it’s a “forbidden” food. Savoring can’t happen when you are watching TV or checking your phone.
Not savoring is cheating yourself.
When you don’t savor, when you do multitask while you eat, or rush through meals, you aren’t allowing yourself to get every inch of pleasure from eating. Interestingly enough, most of the time, the people who overeat the most, savor the least.
Implementing a savoring policy – at least for certain foods and certain situations – will help you maximize your pleasure and be proactive about your holiday eating.
Make your own rules.
The second holiday eating strategy that you can combine with savoring is something that I call setting policies. Policies are different from diet rules or “shoulds” or have-tos that leave you feeling deprived or overly disciplined or guilty because you don’t follow them.
Policies are frameworks that you set to help you streamline your thinking and make your eating easier, and even more enjoyable. Policies help take the stress out of food choices and help you target your eating so that it allows you to feel (physically and emotionally) the way you want to feel.
Setting holiday eating policies.
Consider whether there are any broad policies that could streamline eating choices this holiday season. Think about the “extra” foods that show up that you don’t really love or that you can easily do without, but that you might just mindlessly put on your plate or sample because they are there.
Set a policy now about anything you can eliminate from your food world for the next two months.
What wouldn’t you miss? If you’re facing a season of holiday treats, consider eliminating the foods that you might easily buy or order any time of year.
Examples might be store-bought candy or desserts, tortilla chips, French fries, or …. (fill in the blank – what could you just decide to say no to that you wouldn’t really miss?). You now have a policy of things you just won’t put on your plate this season.
You can also create policies about what you will do. Maybe this is a season to commit to a consistent lunch that you bring from home or a policy to have a green smoothie every day. You decide. Create policies that will be helpful for you.
A policy is one decision instead of many. You’re not only streamlining your eating, you’re eliminating stress. Having a few clear policies removes the need to make a hard decision in the moment because you’ve already made it.
Take these holiday eating strategies and make them your own. Experiment and see how they work for you and how you can use them to add more ease, joy, and success to your holiday season.