Peaceful Eating: Creating Calm Throughout the Holidays

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Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

We have arrived at holiday season. Here we are.

Breathe.

This time of year is fraught with crazy busy schedules, high expectations, traditions, emotions, exhaustion….and food is often central to all of it. But does food need to add more confusion, or can it actually help us create some peace, balance and sanity during this festive time?

It is my belief and experience as a nutrition therapist that we often interact with and respond to food as a reflection of the way we “do life”. So if food is our Life on a Plate, then it’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed with food choices when we enter this intense, calendar-packed time of the year. Can we celebrate, be fulfilled and feel joy – both with food and our holiday experiences?

To get to the answers, we must first identify the pitfalls that typically ensnare us. We either:

Try to control, because we’ve been brainwashed to believe that holiday weight gain is rampant and we must fight against it. So we diet, skip meals, delay eating or vow to avoid our favorite foods.

Don’t care at all, believing that making supportive choices is impossible, and vowing to just wait and start over in January.

Tune out, going through the holidays in a bit of a blur, not enjoying food, relationships, events or the meaning of the season.

Combine all of the above, vacillating back and forth between attempted control, over-hunger, overwhelming emotions and situations. These lead us to give up, tune out, and eat mindlessly, only to repeat the cycle in some manner the next day.

But Hallelujah! Peace is possible, if we only stop trying so hard. In fact, as we allow food on our plate intentionally, we’ll find the rest of our holidays are more in sync as well. Here’s how:

1. Honor your signals. That starts by eating 3 regular and timely meals, whether it’s Thanksgiving, the day before a party or a typical workday. Every single day, eat actual meals. Saving up for a meal at a later time confuses our signals and leaves us feeling unsatisfied and/or overfull. This also creates a sense of being disconnected, not only from ourselves, but from others as well.

2. Keep snacks with you at all times, because many days aren’t routine this time of year. Being prepared for a longer-than-expected shopping day or late evening holiday concert will keep your brain and body fed, helping you handle stress and chaos with ease. Believe me, your family will appreciate that your afternoon snack helped prevent your transformation into the Grinch.

3. Eat what you like. Really. That means include your favorite holiday foods, and truly, completely savor them. When we eat what we enjoy, we’re more likely to find satiety.

4. Take a peek at hors d’oeuvres, the menu or the buffet so you can choose what you truly want. By using a plate, you can best tune into the amounts that match your hunger level at that moment.

5. Stay mindful. Start by taking a breath before you enter a party, sit at a table or begin eating. Using all our senses, we can be more in the moment, and optimize what we get from our food, our social opportunities, and our relationships.

6. Stop when content. Aim for the feeling of “just right”, reminding yourself that you can eat this food again, whether it be tomorrow, next week or when you want pumpkin pie in July.

7. Have gratitude. Take a moment to pause before every single time you eat, bringing awareness to the food in front of you and appreciation for it and the people in your life.

By aiming to tune in to our food, we are more likely to keep perspective throughout the season, laugh, rest, and celebrate what’s truly important.

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD, is a co-founder and nutrition therapist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches.  In addition to seeing clients, Christie enjoys participating in speaking engagements and workshops.