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Eating Mindfully When You’re Family Is Driving You Crazy

Image courtesy of Hubspot

by Laura Cipullo, Whole Nutrition Services Team

As I write this, we’re just finishing with Chanukah and are less than two weeks away from Christmas. There are so many yummy foods around — latkes, pies, potatoes, candy canes, butter cookies, chocolate gelt, pumpkin EVERYTHING!

And there is also a lot of family stress to contend with, as relatives we may not have seen all year visit, or as we visit them. We love our family (no, come on now, really, we do), but sometimes they know all too well how to push those hot emotional buttons that drive us crazy. (“You’re STILL not married?/Isn’t it time to start thinking about baby #2? Etc.) This can lead to eating from stress or extreme emotion, and not from a place of true hunger.

If you’ve been following a mindful eating practice all year round, you may be frustrated if you feel like you can’t continue to do so during the month of December. But I am here to tell you that you most definitely CAN, as long as you keep a few guidelines in mind:

  • First of all, I’m not about to tell you to avoid any of the wonderful holiday food that’s in front of you. Why would I? It’s all so yummy, and some of it is only available this time of year. (Starbucks holiday drinks, I’m looking right at you!) So of course, you want to indulge. And you should. Just include these foods as part of your daily intake — remember, everything in moderation — and continue on with your regular healthy, self-care habits. If you don’t have regular self-care habits, I encourage you to include them to help relieve any holiday-related anxiety (and year-round anxiety, for that matter). These range from getting enough sleep, to reading to reduce stress, to taking a bubble bath at the end of a long day.

 

  • Food is fuel, not emotional stuffing to deal with family problems. It may take a while for you to grasp this concept, if you’ve been using food as a way to comfort yourself during difficult times. You may not even realize that you are doing this. This week, I tweeted about food journaling because I believe this can be a useful tool for mindful eating. (There are other benefits to it as well; I encourage you to read the whole article, to understand them fully.) Write down what you’re eating, why you’re eating (be honest!), and how you feel before and after. Did the food satisfy you the way you wanted it to? Do you find yourself unsatisfied and looking for more? Do you notice you are eating on “autopilot” after a difficult encounter with someone? The first step is to notice when you are eating unmindfully, then you can make helpful changes to switch to a mindful practice.

 

  • Be gentle with yourself, though. In my new book, The Women’s Health Body Clock Diet (out 12/22), I have a whole section on how to mindfully eat an Oreo cookie. Choose a small item like an Oreo to mindfully eat at first, just to bring the concept back into your life slowly. (You can even mindfully eat M&Ms; I’ve done that.) I go into this more in my book, but relaxing, breathing deeply, getting rid of distractions, not eating out of a bag (putting food into a bowl), using all the senses to eat — these are all tools that make up a mindful eating practice, and they’re really not that hard to master. But the benefits, once you fully incorporate them into your life, are amazing! Most importantly, the pressure to diet or restrict goes right out the window. You eat what you want when you want, in moderation and with deliberation.

 

  • While we love tasty foods during the holiday season, remember that foods can be both tasty and nutritious. Focus on yummy foods that have high fiber (these really help with satisfying you!), are lean proteins, or have MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) and PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids). I’m talking about salmon (nice for a holiday dinner!), walnuts (yummy in a salad with cheese!), chia (goes great in yogurt and has PUFAs), and even items with pumpkin (fiber and vitamin A) and dark chocolate (MUFAs!). Tasty and nutritious satisfies your cravings and your body’s requirements to function.

 

  • If you find holiday time, or even post-holiday time, challenging to navigate, be sure to schedule an appointment with me. Navigating difficult eating situations is my specialty!

Also, before I leave you, I want to let you know about an exciting contest I’m running, exclusively for my Facebook fans. “Like” my page by this Sunday and you just might win a free, signed copy of my new book, Body Clock Diet. Wouldn’t that be a cool holiday gift, for you or a friend? I offer unique content on my FB page you can’t get anywhere else, so it’s definitely a worthwhile step if you want to start 2016 on a mindful foot.

Happy holidays!