Permission to Mindfully Indulge.

The most wonderful time of the year can also be one of the most stressful, busy, and expensive times of the year with additional obstacles for health or nutrition. The holidays are complicated enough without adding even more pressure on ourselves by trying to lose weight too. The goal for most of us this holiday season is maximizing your satisfaction from food with the added benefit of weight maintenance. My advice isn’t exactly revolutionary but hopefully it is presented in way that will resonate with you and provide you with skills to navigate the holidays with more ease.

Enter the last part of this holiday season with the intention to whole-heartedly give yourself permission to mindfully indulge. This appears counter-intuitive for weight maintenance, especially if the plentiful and rich food that comes along with the holidays brings you fear and anxiety. When people restrict any food it becomes undeniably tempting to them and the cravings become stronger which may be followed by overeating and a lovely little guilt spiral. Avoidance is easier because you don’t have to flex your moderation muscles.

By granting yourself permission to indulge, you are freeing yourself from judgement. You are inviting wholeheartedness, gratitude, acceptance, and a little vulnerability into your life. Remember when you were a kid who looked forward to and savoured every damn bite of Grandma’s cookies without an ounce of shame? You can relive those feelings without the guilt, shame, or negative thoughts by permitting yourself to indulge.

How on Earth Do I Give Myself Permission to Mindfully Indulge?

  1. Let us all accept that this will be difficult. We may slip up and make choices we wish we hadn’t. We may surprise ourselves in what we learn and how we grow from our mistakes. It is important to practice self-compassion, especially during the growing pains of forming new habits.
  2. Ditch the diet mentality and all that it includes such as food rules, “good” or “bad” foods, restrictions, and preoccupation with calories or weight. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat any type of food.
    • If we only focus on the outcome (the numbers on a scale) instead of learning to trust what our bodies are telling us and develop healthy habits, we are setting ourselves up for failure. You will be more successful if you invest your energy into self-discovery and the small daily actions that add to overall health (more on this to come).
  3. Explore an intention to celebrate the holidays without guilt or remorse and put it into practice.
    • Make sure it resonates with you and repeat it often. Revisit it before you go to a party. Post it where you can easily see it. Set a reminder on your phone so you can be brought back to your intention at any time. See this article for more ideas.

Practicing Mindful or Intuitive Eating

Mindfulness, so hot right now. 

By grounding yourself in the present moment, you get to fully experience every last bite of your food and the luxury of being fully satisfied. If we are distracted while eating, we tend to eat more of the fun foods or foods we don’t enjoy without satisfying our desires. The best part about mindful or intuitive eating is that these are life skills, not just a marketing fad. Read more about Intuitive Eating here. I could go on and on about this topic but here are some quick & dirty tips.

  • Slow down. The only thing you win by eating fast is some saved time but you miss out on the experience.
  • Accept we are not great at multi-tasking and avoid eating in front of screens, behind the wheel, or running errands. Minimize distractions during meals to savour your food.
  • Take account of your senses while eating the food.
    • Taste: What flavours can you identify?
    • Smell: What does it smell like? Does that smell remind you of anything? Can you guess ingredients from the smell?
    • Sight: What is the presentation like? How much is there? What types of food or variety of ingredients do you notice?
    • Touch: What is the texture like? Does it have a certain mouth feel? What is the temperature like?
  • Ask yourself if you enjoyed the dish. Is there anything you’d change? Would you eat it again?
  • One of the secrets to healthy indulgence is self-discovery. If you love your Aunt’s famous cookies and you have given yourself permission to eat and enjoy them, it is so much easier to pass up the box of Turtles in the office.
    • Make a list of your favourite treat food or beverages and rank them in descending order. The ones at the top of your list should be your priority to fully enjoy and appreciate.
  • Remind yourself that you can have it later. If we make a food a limited one-time offer, we risk overeating out of fear that we have another opportunity.

Before you close this article, there are some caveats to mindful indulgence this holiday season:

  • Plan to indulge during or after balanced snacks & meals when your hunger is satisfied. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Nutritionist or a couch potato, if you wait until you’re starving to eat, you are more likely to overeat.
    • Even if you aren’t planning to indulge or have a treat, avoid “saving” up for a large dinner or event by skipping meals. Self-control or willpower are usually powerless against perceived starvation by our bodies.
  • Alcohol is similar to being over-hungry because we tend to lower our inhibitions and eat larger amounts of lower quality foods, especially drinking on an empty stomach. Plus if you don’t remember what you ate and if you got any pleasure from it, what is the point?

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