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Retreat To Spirit: Mindful Eating During the Holidays

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Many of us in the United States and North America are getting ready for holiday gatherings with family and friends. The season seems to start off with pumpkin lattes, Halloween candy, hot cocoa, and cider, with the enticing aroma of cinnamon and chai. This can mean our health, lifestyle, and eating habits get thrown out the window for creamy beverages, starchy comfort foods, game day parties, and alcohol. We often emerge from the holiday season with an extra ten pounds from all the fun and mindless eating.

"One unhealthy meal is not going to cause you to gain weight, just like one healthy meal doesn't cause you to lose weight," says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But that's the problem; we don't stop at just one unhealthy meal. "It's multiple holiday parties per week, more alcohol than normal, extra treats and snacks in the office, and more," Rumsey says. "This continues for at least one to two months and causes many people to gain a few extra pounds." How about maintaining your wellness habits, learning a few new ones, and practicing mindful indulgence this holiday season? Gone are the days of binge eating or eating until your buttons pop. As we get older, we become wiser, and besides, who really enjoys feeling like a stuffed sausage?

In African American culture, many of us have grown up with parents forcing us to be a clean plate club member, meaning that every particle of food on the plate must be cleared before leaving the table. Imagine what this was like during holiday dinners and family gatherings! Western society has dictated the conditioning of overindulgence because "there were starving children in Africa." Now that we are adulting, we can free ourselves from these "societal norms" and rules bestowed upon us by our well-meaning loved ones. We can eat more mindfully and occasionally enjoy a slice of Aunt Betty's sweet potato pie.

Here are a few tips for mindful eating during the holiday season:

Instead of eating with your eyes, try eating with your belly. Imagine the space and size of your stomach. Remember, it's as big as your fist, so realistically you probably only need a couple of tablespoons of side items and a couple ounces of meat or protein. Be mindful of the appearance of the food on your plate. Does it look like your stomach will be full to capacity, or will you feel comfortable and satisfied?

Try a cup of warm water with lemon before and after a meal. It reduces inflammation and cleanses the system – great for digestion. Drinking lemon water regularly decreases acidity in your body and removes uric acid from joints. It enhances enzyme function, stimulating your liver and activating bile flow, which helps emulsify and flush out fat-soluble toxins. Also, drinking warm lemon water may help you lose weight — lemons contain pectin fiber, which assists in fighting hunger cravings.

Make sure you are getting adequate sleep. During the changing seasons (and due to the time and sunlight adjustment), the circadian rhythm can be disrupted - our internal time clock for the sleep/wake cycle. This disruption can produce more ghrelin, the growth hormone that makes us hungry, which makes us eat more.

Mindful eating during this time can be challenging, but it does not have to be hard. If we are conscious of what we put into our mouths and bodies, we can ensure that we are being and becoming properly nourished. Practicing mindful eating is self-care in action!

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