Christmas is my favourite time of year. I love the fresh, seasonal produce, time with family and friends, and of course the special foods that we associate with Christmas. It is a time filled (often to overflowing) with socialising, but it doesn’t have to be associated with overeating or drinking too much. It is also definitely not a time for dieting or restriction. That will only make you feel guilty when it gets too hard to stick with and miserable while you are trying. Instead, my suggestion is to eat, drink, and mindfully navigate your way through the festive season.
Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be completely in touch with, and aware of, the present moment. It encourages us not to evaluate or judge our inner experiences. When mindfulness is applied to our food and eating behaviours, it can increase our awareness to the process of eating and our interactions with food.
During the festive season, when we are busy with social events, it can be very easy to allow our food choices to become reactive and automatic. Mindful eating gives us the opportunity to re-establish a connection with the food we are eating, choose foods that are nourishing and satisfying, become aware of the physical feelings of hunger and satiety, and allow these physical cues to guide our decisions to start and stop eating.
One term that I believe encompasses the principles of mindful eating perfectly, is respect. Respect for yourself encourages you to choose foods that are both nourishing and enjoyable. Respect for your body encourages you to allow the physical cues of hunger and satiety to guide your decisions to start eating and stop eating, reducing the feelings of being uncomfortably hungry or uncomfortably full. Respect for the food that you eat encourages you to mindfully and fully experience and appreciate the food you choose to eat. It also allows respect for family traditions and rituals if they are important to you.
Your family might have an amazing pavlova recipe or a Christmas pudding recipe that has been handed down through the generations. These family traditions are such an important part of our food choices at this time of year.
I spent this morning in my kitchen with my mother and two daughters. We had the pleasure of making shortbread together from my grandmother’s recipe. Nanna passed away last year, and although we miss her dearly, she is always in our memory. I’m sure our shortbread won’t be as good as Nanna’s, but she will be in our hearts when we share it together. We might even leave some out for Santa!
So, as you embark on this festive season, what will you choose? Overeating and drinking too much? Trying to diet your way through the next few weeks, feeling miserable and deprived? Or being respectful of yourself and the food you chose to eat, allowing yourself to feel connected, nourished and satisfied?
Wishing you a merry, mindful Christmas.
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