It’s festive season and it is time to enjoy yourselves! Oh wait but… what about sweets you say?? What about nonna’s temptations?? What about all the indulging??
I know a lot of people start to worry that the holidays will be too tempting. They think they will inevitably put on some weight, fall off the wagon with their healthy eating, and well it’s just too hard to have the willpower to fight it. And I totally agree with you. Willpower takes energy, and when you are relaxing, having some time off work and trying to enjoy yourself, who wants to be exerting that much effort? Not a solid strategy.
So here is a fresh new way to approach holiday food that will not take your energy away. Instead it will support you to rejuvenate more fully, and by celebrating your body and health, will keep you on track with your lifestyle goals. Sounds good right? Well, it’s actually not that complicated.
Enjoy your food
The secret to maintaining a healthy body is not about enjoying less but about enjoying more. I know it’s hard to believe but there is way too much information targeted at restriction and control. And it fails because it is not naturally aligned with our emotions and intuition. When we create a life that is in balance, our relationship with food becomes more natural, and when we enjoy and appreciate our food, the brain and the body are in harmony and tell us when to eat and when to stop, without the need for restriction or control. We know that stress can cause weight gain, because of the negative effect on the cortisol cycle. Therefore enjoying food and allowing yourself to have what you really like, is going to bring balance and have a positive effect on your body.
Mantra: My pleasure is important and allowed.
Bring your awareness
When you sit down for a meal, take a moment to reflect. Can you recall when you had your last meal? How many hours has it been? Look at the food presented to you now. Do you know when you will eat next and is this affecting how much you are putting on your plate? By not restricting yourself, you will be less hungry… now…and later. When you serve yourself try to become aware of what your next meal or snack might be and enjoy knowing. Will you have something delicious and nutritious in an hour or two? It takes the tension off of trying to have everything now.
Mantra: I am empowered and my body can trust me.
Rest and digest
We have all heard it but we don’t all do it, and it’s so important. All of the digestive processes take place when the body is ‘at rest’. Blood flow to the stomach, enzyme secretion, and just allowing the body to assimilate nutrients uses the parasympathetic nervous system. So what happens when we are worried, tense and rushing? Under chronic stress and ‘overthinking’ the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, and for a lot of us, it is likely that the body is in fight or flight much of the time. This means digestive function is compromised and the body is not getting to be in a natural state of nourishment. Your digestion is literally the core of your health. So before you eat, take a few deep breaths. Take a moment and slow down and above everything else, just be in the moment, being nourished.
Mantra: I am at ease while I fill my belly.
Awaken your senses
Food is pleasurable, so enjoy the smells and overall experience of your food. Are the flavours balanced? Can you taste the salt, the sugar, the fats? How are your senses responding to these flavours? Allow the sensations of the meal to be a distinct aspect of the overall pleasure of your eating experience. There are laboratories out there making processed foods that will activate the ‘bliss’ parts of your brain. We don’t need this. Notice how you can tap into this yourself by awakening your senses to the full experience of more subtle tones, and enjoying knowing that the food can be delicious as well as good for you. Many of our most cherished memories will come from experiences with food. It is more than the meal and the nutrients we need to be healthy; it is also about the people, the places and the emotional connection. Taking time to chew, (try 35 times per bite) , as well as taking time to enjoy everything that has gone into preparation is going to give you more wonderful memories that will nourish you beyond the meal.
Mantra: I am present to the way food feels.
Food for thought
Pay attention to your hunger before you eat. If it’s been more than a couple of hours, you are likely going to have some brain chemicals at work (say hello to the hormone Grehlin), telling you that if you don’t eat enough you might actually starve. These messages tend to be very extreme for survival! But the reality is you are not going to starve. So stop for a moment and check in with the messages you are receiving. Have a 30 second conversation with yourself and develop a strategy. Your goal is to eat until you have enough energy to fuel you until the next meal. You do not need to under eat, and you do not need to over eat. Eating the right amount, and knowing when your meals are going to be, is going to make over indulging a lot less likely.
At the end of the day it’s really about finding a way to enjoy and trust in your own relationship with yourself, and with food! Whatever your holiday schedule looks like, remember to be grateful for amazing food, gatherings and enjoy the life giving energy around you.
Mantra: Love more this holiday season, and stress less.
Yours in shining health,
Sita Huber, BHSc