December 23, 2022 6 Min Read
Embrace A Mindful Approach to Holiday Indulgence
Let us officially welcome you to the season of indulgence. Did we just make your healthy side cringe?
We’ve all been there — when you feel like you’ve just started to make progress with your well-being goals, but a party (or entire season!) pops up to interfere.
Maybe you’ve been a meal-prepping machine. Your fridge is packed with nutrient-rich goodness. You’ve been powering up with protein-packed breakfasts, packing healthy salads for lunch, and limiting the temptation of takeout for dinner. Well done! Now, it’s time to give yourself some grace.
Nutritionist and Integrative Wellness Coach Haley Smith is giving you permission to celebrate your progress, and give into a little temptation.
This time of year isn’t just about the food. It’s about gatherings, conversation, and laughter. And lucky for us, slowing down and sitting around a table with loved ones to enjoy your food is actually good for you.
“It’s very common to eat a lot of food that you wouldn’t normally eat around the holidays, but I’d like to emphasize that the way we eat the food and the mindset we eat the food in can do so much for us and can help our body absorb and digest the food so much better, regardless of what it is,” says Haley.
Haley is a strong believer in a mindful eating approach year-round, especially around the holidays. And she has the science to back it up.
Mindful eating engages your parasympathetic nervous system (your “rest and digest” state), which helps your body digest and metabolize. Taking your time keeps energy at your core, instead of it escaping to your limbs when you’re in a sympathetic (“fight or flight”) state. Pretty cool, huh?
So before you fill up your plate…
Take a deep breath
The best way to get into that parasympathetic nervous system? Taking a big breath in will activate the parasympathetic gland right behind your belly button, kickstarting your digestion support.
Stop and smell the aromas
Digestion starts before you even take a bite. So take the time to appreciate the scents wafting from the table, and let yourself start salivating. When you do, your gut releases digestive enzymes to more efficiently break down your food.
Chew it over
When you do take a bite, savor each taste. Taking your time to chew thoroughly will help break down your food and support your gut health. Set your fork down between each bite to give your body time to digest and absorb. Bonus: this pause is also a great time to engage in active listening and really connect with your fellow dinner guests.
“Who cares what the exact food is if you chew well, digest, and absorb it? You’re going to continue reaching your goals by just making a conscious effort to be in that ‘rest and digest state’ rather than that stressed out state,” says Haley.
So don’t stress about indulgence, and ignore your inner critic’s commentary on setbacks. Got it?
If you do want to prepare your body for a celebratory meal, Haley says there are some simple things you can do:
Stabilize your blood sugar
You may be tempted to fast before the big meal, saving up your appetite. However, this can lead to a dip in your blood sugar and feeling hangry, irritable, and stressed out. Eat a protein rich breakfast to stabilize your blood sugar, so you show up to your party nourished and able to focus on connection.
Haley emphasizes the importance of hydrating in the lead-up to your gathering. While water is great, you can increase its effects tenfold by adding electrolytes. Why not sip an electrolyte mocktail as you get ready? Mix a little lemon and sea salt into your water, or pour yourself some coconut water or aloe vera juice for maximum hydration.
Balance your plate
Guilt-free indulgence will surely include carbs and sugar — and that’s okay! But to avoid a blood sugar crash, try to balance your plate with one source of each macronutrient, including protein and fat. If you’re hosting or bringing along an appetizer, think about fun ways to sneak in protein, like devilled eggs or bacon wrapped dates. This will help avoid the headache, fatigue, or jitters after the meal.
Remember: It’s not the season of guilt, it’s the season of gatherings. So, let the good times (and good food) roll!
Looking for more tips and tricks to indulge mindfully this holiday season? From nutrition to meal-prep to stress-management, Haley’s standing by to help.