The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is upon us, and this can be overwhelming for even the most stoic of individuals. We yearn to regain our balance and peaceful moments seem to be just out of reach – or rather hidden behind glittery storefront windows and a full planner during the month ahead. So read on to learn about a few simple skills, which you can immediately implement to help you practice slowing down and being mindful.
Intuitive Eating is a non-diet framework which can help you improve your relationship with food and your body through re-establishing a connection with and listening to the expertise of your body. But when distractions are at an all-time high during the month of December, they can easily become an obstacle to listening to your body’s polite hunger cues.
It can be very inconvenient to suddenly realize that you’re starving while waiting in what seems like an endless line at a cash register. So, as you are waiting for family to arrive at the restaurant or as you are riding on the subway take a quick moment to build some mindfulness into your day. There is an easy-to-remember acronym which can help you do this: STOP.
STOP: Practice pausing during your day
S stands for Stop – just take a moment to pause what you are doing.
T stands for take a breath, or two or five and feel the air move through your body.
O stands for Observe – What do you smell? What do you hear? How does your body feel? Are there any emotions swirling around your head? Are you tense?
P stands for Proceed – you can either continue along or adjust your activities depending on what you realized during your “check-in.”
These 4 quick steps are very helpful to establish more awareness during your day and to centre yourself in your life – especially when things get a little crazy around the holidays.
This is not the right time of year to practice perfection
Having committed to too many Christmas activities or unexpected last-minute Christmas shopping can make your schedule a bit wonky – and that can affect your eating schedule as well. Try to keep track of your meals and make it a priority to eat regularly. Don’t be stressed if there wasn’t enough time to go to the store to buy your usual ingredients to prepare a home-cooked meal. One quick and convenient meal is not going to ruin your health. Practice flexibility and know that there will be plenty of other opportunities throughout the year to dish up something with more vegetables.
Don’t restrict your calories before your holiday feast. Yes, I know it’s tempting to reduce your calories and skip a few meals, but your body doesn’t know that you are restricting voluntarily, and this sends your brain into a food frenzy where all your thoughts are circling around food. It not only feels incredible uncomfortable to be hungry during what is meant to be a fun event, but it also takes you out of the actual moment and the joy of seeing friends and family. Plus, if you’ve been holding back then it’s much harder to resist the delicious holiday meals. Let go of the guilt and worry around food and trust your body – you’ll notice that you will naturally tend to eat less if you eat to the point of comfortable fullness and if you select the treats and comfort foods you really love.
When you see things as either one or the other, or black or white then you can also fall into the trap of thinking: “I was bad because I had a cookie, and I might as well finish off the plate.” Try this instead: “I am not a failure for eating or cookie or even having two cookies. But I am starting to feel full, so maybe I will wait a few minutes to see if I want to eat more.”
Silence the criticism
Whether the criticism is coming from your inner voice or a well-meaning family member – both are extremely unhelpful. Unwanted comments from others regarding your body, weight or choice in calories can be very harmful to self-esteem. It’s best to prepare a few saucy replies so that you feel ready to ward off those pesky aunts. Remember that you are always worthy of love and food no matter your body size. Other people’s remarks are likely an indication of their own issues – not yours.
Sabine Maritschnik, MPH, RDN is a mom of 2 kids and a Registered Dietitian from California. She has a private practice specialising in Intuitive Eating in Lower Austria. She offers speaking engagements and 1:1 nutrition counselling in person as well as virtually in both English and German. Her website is www.intuitivesessen.at and you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram: @intuitives.essen.mit.sabine.