by Carley Hauck, MA
Holidays are rife with emotional triggers and exhausting task lists. When we are stressed, many of us struggle to maintain healthy eating habits. Here are seven research-based practices that can help us not eat and drink too much during the holidays.
1. Breathe. When you feel stressed, you can simply take a big belly breath (several would be even better). This slows down your nervous system. Breathing is a practice in releasing, opening, and receiving the blessing of life.
2. Eat slowly. “Ooh this is delicious!” The only way to keep that “first bite” experience is to eat slowly, with moderate pauses between bites. When you do anything else while eating (talking, walking, writing, driving) the flavor diminishes or disappears.
3. Be mindful of hunger. Before eating, on a scale of 1-10, how hungry are you and what sensations tell you that? If you aren’t physically hungry, let that be your guide. Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment. It helps us to be in our bodies and out of our heads. It doesn’t matter if the clock says its lunchtime or if you have food in front of you. If you listen, your body will tell you when to eat and when enough is enough.
4. Make mindful choices. It’s your body, choose what you want to put in it. During big holiday meals we often want to try everything. But before picking up a plate, try this. First, gauge your hunger level. How hungry are you? Choose how much food you want based on your hunger. Now, look at all the choices and pick the ones you most want to try. As you are eating, you can choose to eat what tastes good and leave the rest on the plate or try something else.
5. Distinguish between desire and craving. Did you know that stress can intensify our food cravings? Food can be soothing, particularly sugary foods, and eating can actually dampen the stress response and calm our nervous system. If the holidays are causing you stress, breathe, and ask yourself, “What do I feel? and What do I need? “ Can you just be with the food craving instead of acting on it? I often feel like I want chocolate in the middle of the day, but then I say, “You just had lunch, do you really want it?” If I hear myself say “maybe”, I wait. If the craving goes away I just let it go, but if its still there then I ask myself again, “Do you really want this?” Being mindful of cravings means that we listen to what we want and what we need and make a conscious choice.
6. Practice generosity. Generosity is the practice of having enough so that you can give it away. Those who are truly wealthy are the ones who give generously. We can give to ourselves, others, and our greater community by understanding how to use food as love. When we cook, eat, and share food together, we practice generosity.
7. Express gratitude. Research shows that gratitude has been shown to increase our inclination to be caring, compassionate, honest, and respectful. Bring more gratitude into your life by asking yourself: “Am I expressing my gratitude to the people in my life?”
At this time of year we see that the weather is changing. We can mirror this change in our own lives with the practice of letting go. In replacing old beliefs and habits that don’t serve us, we open the doors for new ways of being that promote happiness and health. We can start right now.
May your holidays and new year invite new possibilities, slowness, and blessings.
Carley Hauck, MA is the founder of Intuitive Wellness and works as an integrative life coach and wellness consultant with individuals and organizations. She holds a Masters Degree in health psychology. Carley is a lead consultant for ongoing research observing the long-term benefits of mindfulness on weight loss and stress reduction. Carley has worked with companies such as LinkedIn, Pixar, and Hopelab to help create happier, healthier, and more productive workplaces. Carley currently teaches on the subjects of Happiness, Positive Psychology, and Mindful Eating at Stanford University. Additionally, Carley teaches community classes integrating health and mindfulness and has class offerings for the New Year. Please go to www.intuitivelywell.com to learn more on how Carley can support you or your company.