Welcome to the season of holiday eating. This is that well-loved, often anticipated and sometimes regretted time filled with treats, memory and emotional-laden indulgences, and once-a-year temptations. The non-Paleo, processed food goodies including candy dishes and cookie trays accompanied by a plethora of holiday parties are everywhere until January (when the world once again becomes obsessed with ‘clean eating, getting ‘back on track’, food obsessions, controlling your weight and selling you success in a pill, liquid or powder).
This can often result in you wondering how to enjoy holiday eating and make this a season of joy and delight and not one of overkill that leaves you feeling bloated, off-track, or frustrated with yourself in January. How does one who wants to align themselves with the Paleo lifestyle principles still get to enjoy the season without having to be left out of some of the favorite eating pleasures? The key to choosing to indulge is a balanced approach, an outlook that honors the special and unique times and treats of the season, but also helps you preserve your well being and stay on track with your goals.
There are two important (and Paleo based) mindset strategies that can contribute to making holiday eating, and treating, work for you.
- Savor each bite
Savoring is when you completely and fully experience and enjoy the food that you are choosing to put into your mouth right now. In our modern world of instant gratification, multi-tasking and constantly doing, the art of savoring has become neglected and lost.
It so often happens that you mindlessly eat appetizers or snacks at a party with hardly paying attention or you finish your dessert, clean your plate, even though it was not particularly tasty or satisfying. Making a commitment to savor your food and choosing to not eat something unless you are completely enjoying it will go a long way to mitigating those types of situations.
People who take the time to savor their food feel more satisfied with what they have eaten, they eat less and often carry around little to no guilt around their choice. Being fully present allows you to notice the taste of your food and to be aware of that moment you no longer derive pleasure from it. If you are fully present while you are eating, you become more able to recognize when you are full instead of mindlessly finishing whatever it is you are eating.
Being pro-active and planning your choices or mindful indulgences will set you up for success. Instead of hoping you can get by with self-discipline, think about the special holiday foods or occasions that you are likely encounter this year. Consider which once-a-year treats that you know you definitely do not want to go without. You want to squeeze every ounce of goodness from these experiences. Commit to savoring when you indulge in these wonderful foods. This means giving yourself the gift of being hungry when you eat them and allowing yourself to be present while you take, chew and swallow each bite. This way you are sure to taste, feel, smell, and soak in the delight. When you savor your food, create a moment around your mindful indulgence, you create the presence to be aware of when you really feel satisfied. When you are one hundred percent present with your eating, the moments the pleasure begins wearing off or you start to feel full becomes glaringly obvious.
Giving yourself permission to savor means you can stop because you know you have permission to savor again, when you are hungry. A commitment to savoring means giving yourself the ability to both fully indulge and to stop once the experience has peaked. There is no need to ever have to eat or drink the whole thing.
Savoring also demands mental space. You are unable to savor if you are distracting yourself because you feel guilty that you may be veering off your Paleo plan, or if you are eating on the run (or in your car), or if you are wolfing down your chosen food because it’s a ‘forbidden.’ Savoring cannot happen when you are watching TV or checking your phone.
Ultimately, not savoring is cheating yourself. When you are unable to savor your food, when you do multitask while you eat, or rush through meals, you denying yourself the ability to get every inch of pleasure from eating. Interestingly enough, most of the time, the people who overeat the most, savor the least.
Implementing a savoring policy, especially during the holiday season, for certain foods and certain situations will help you maximize your pleasure and be proactive about your holiday eating.
- Set your own policies
Policies are different from the regular food related rules or ‘shoulds’ or have-to’s that leave you feeling deprived, overly disciplined or guilty because you do not follow them.
Policies are frameworks that you set to help you streamline your thinking and make your eating easier, and even more enjoyable. Policies help take the stress out of food choices and help you target your eating so that you are able to physically and emotionally feel good about your choices.
When setting policies around holiday eating choices, it is important to consider whether there are any broad policies that could streamline these choices during this period. Think about those ‘bonus’ foods that show up that are really not your favorites or that you can easily do without, but that you might just mindlessly put on your plate or sample because they are there.
Set a policy now about anything you can eliminate from your food world over the next few weeks. Think of the foods you really would not miss. If you are facing a season of holiday treats, consider eliminating the foods that you might easily buy or order any time of year, including store-bought candy or desserts, chips, French fries, or your choice of the item you could easily decide to say no to that you know you would feel perfectly fine going without. You now have a policy of things you just will not put on your plate this season.
You can also create policies about what you will do. Maybe this is a season to commit to a consistent lunch that you bring from home, maybe only indulging at certain times or events or a policy to have a Paleo friendly breakfast every morning, no matter what. You decide. Create policies that will be helpful for you.
A policy is one decision instead of many. This way, you are not only streamlining your eating, you are eliminating stress. Having a few clear policies removes the need to make a hard decision in the moment, because they have already been made.
It is next to impossible to eat perfectly over the holidays, and aiming for nothing less than perfection can make it hard to socialize or relax, adding to your stress and discomfort. Giving yourself permission for mindful indulgences is by far a better strategy than forbidding yourself to eat certain foods followed by ‘breaking down’ and binging. When entering social situation where temptations abound, rather than, ‘I’m going to resist everything’, think of savoring, and having some policies in place. This means making the best choices you can overall while allowing yourself just enough indulgence so you neither harm your body nor come away still dreaming of all the things you craved but avoided.