Wholeness Healing Today

Eating Mindfully During the Holidays

We know that the holidays bring about an increase in food choices and consumption due to more social events including parties, large traditional family gatherings, sharing of office goodies and gifting or receiving those cookie trays.  This array of foods to choose from, along with the emotional triggers stimulated by family gatherings may set the stage for “filling the gut” to numb out the feelings of the heart. Not surprising, researchers from Cornell University found that weight gain during the holidays is a real thing and that it often starts in October. They also found that it takes up to five months after the holidays to get those extra pounds off. (Macmillan, 2017)

Another study targeted distraction as a culprit of weight gain. This study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found when people eat in front of the TV or their devices (trance eating), they consume more food.  This distracted eating in front of screens also prompted more eating throughout the day. Hurried eating also prompted increased eating. (LeWine, 2013)  Apparently, the research shows that when people are distracted while they eat, they are not paying attention to what they are eating or how they are feeling as they eat. Being “present” while eating your meal allows you to notice what you are eating and how your body is feeling, giving you the opportunity to feel nourished and satisfied, thereby setting the stage for you to eat less the next meal.

This season would be a good time to consider working on mindful eating, perhaps preventing those additional pounds from being packed on.  Mindful eating is a time set aside to eat with no distracting tasks being blended into the eating time.  This can also be an effective tool as we move through those additional social events during this time.  We can be present and attentive with each other and with the food we are partaking in, allowing the possibility of a more fulfilling and satisfying experience. The instructions for mindful eating are simple. However, overriding our habitual reaction may not be so simple and takes practice and effort.

Mindful eating is eating “intentionally” and with all your “attention”.  This is an extension of the broader techniques of learning how to be mindful. The goal is to be aware of the foods you are eating, paying attention to your senses, your body, your thoughts and emotions. You will focus on the taste, the textures, the sounds and the smells. With that attentiveness you become aware of your body as you slowly chew, taste and swallow mindfully.  You eat slowly and deliberately. You become aware of your body and if you are “really” hungry for another serving or if you have a sense of feeling satisfied.  If you are eating with others during a “set meal time”, you would also focus to be present with the other people, listening attentively, eating slowly and being present in the moment.

Eating mindfully doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy those holiday treats.  It means that you might find you feel nourished with one bite because you took it in with all the delight it can give. Being present to the experience allows you the joy of being present to others enjoying the meal with you.  It may be a challenge worth trying, and you may find that you found the holiday foods delightful, but did not feel like over-indulging, leaving you with a taste of sweetness at the end of the season.

Works Cited

LeWine, H. M. (2013, March 29). Distracted eating may add to weight gain. Retrieved from Harvard health blog.

MacMillan, A. (2017, September). Holiday weight gain is real, study says – and it starts in October. Retrieved from Real Simple: https://www.realsimple.com

Willard, C. (2016, Oct 13). www.mindful.org/6-ways-practice-mindful-eating/. Retrieved from www.mindful.org: https://www.mindful.org/6-ways-practice-mindful-eating/



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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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