The holiday season is a special time to celebrate with family and friends. During the holidays families gather around the dinner table and relish their traditional foods, and it is food that distinguishes how each family celebrates the holidays. It is a time known for eating, relishing sugar cookies, chocolates and much more, then eventually, face the consequence which is weight gain. However, holidays do not have to be a time to gain extra pounds, rather you can make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. With some planning you can make healthy choices and be mindful of what you eat.
So, what is mindful eating?
It is using all your senses to become aware of what you eat so eating has a positive effect on your mind, body and soul. It is similar to meditation, where you concentrate and pay attention to your mind and body. You listen to your body and eat only when you are hungry, stop when you are satisfied. It takes immense concentration like yoga or meditation to listen to your body and concentrate. This allows you to make healthy choices. Making healthy choices means paying attention to the color, flavor, the texture, the nutritional value of the food, thus allowing you to choose a variety of foods that won’t add the extra pounds, simply put, it’s being mindful about making better, and healthier, decisions. While it may seem counterintuitive, eating mindfully during the holidays may be easier than you once thought. Give it a try. Follow these short principles:
- Listen to your body and eat only when you are hungry.
- How did you feel the last time you ate a particular food? Good, then choose it.
- Eat at a place dedicated to eat meals such as the dining room and don’t watch TV or read a book while you mindlessly eat.
- Are you satisfied? Stop eating don’t get a second helping. Remember how you felt the last time you kept going for seconds.. Stuffed and had to unbuckle your belt..!!
Let’s look briefly at weight gain, the most discussed topic at holiday parties.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Americans gain one to two pounds on average during the holiday season. While these few extra pounds are not dramatic, further research has found that this additional weight is never lost. So let’s say that an average American gained one pound during the holidays each year, they will gain over 20 pounds in the next 20 years. Continue that holiday weight gain, and the average American will consistently gain weight over the years increasing the risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Plus, this does not account for weight gain outside of the four-week holiday season! So how on earth can you stop gaining that weight?
Making Smart Decisions
Mindful eating does not mean you cannot indulge, but instead, it just means making smarter decisions. The holidays are an excellent time for an extra splurge, and being smart and not overindulging can prevent holiday weight gain. For example, why not have a mini fruit tart or compote instead of regular size, one moochi which has approximately 58 calories as opposed to a scoop of regular ice cream which has 130 calories.
Holiday meals tend to have ample offerings and include second and third helpings. Using a smaller plate, for instance, encourages you to put less food on your plate and helps with proper portion sizes. It’s also helpful to start filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Also, remember to drink water instead of the sugar loaded carbonated drinks such as sprite, coke etc., You might want to consider drinking at least 4 oz of water just before you sit down to eat your meal, it will prevent you from overeating. In addition it has plenty of benefits to your gut health which I will discuss in an upcoming blog.
Save for Later
There are always leftovers during the holidays, and freezing the food is a great moderation tip. Studies have found that when food is out of sight, you’ll be less likely to reach for a second helping. Plus, this lets you enjoy holiday meals more than once!
Don’t Forget Water
Between all the errand-running, family parties, and events make sure that you are still drinking plenty of water. The holidays are also notorious for alcohol consumption, and it is essential to drink plenty of water and to not drink alcohol beyond your limit. Alcohol is full of extra, unfurling calories that promotes more eating!
End with Physical Activity
The best way to end your holiday meal is by taking a nice outdoor walk. Many studies have found that taking a brisk 15 to 20-minute walk after a large meal can help ease digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Avoiding holiday weight gain may seem as feasible as Santa fitting down chimneys on Christmas Eve, but these easy tips can help you prevent the extra pounds. The holiday season is about finding a healthy balance between moderation and indulgence.
Mitra Rangarajan is one of the few people in the world who is cross-trained and certified in three interrelated, interconnected and intertwined disciplines which are: Nutrition, Diabetes Management, and Clinical Medicine/GI. Read more of Mitra’s GI Nutrition articles here!