Mindfulness:The key to curbing holiday eating excess

By Alicia Ayvas Riccardella

It is that time of year again when family and friends get together to celebrate the holidays, starting with Halloween and continuing through Valentine’s Day. The popular holiday tune, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” is a hope for many but not always a reality. Getting together with family or friends who you see a handful of times throughout the year may invite peace and joy while also triggering the opposite, such as stress and conflict. That said, coping with stressors may lead to behaviors that are unsustainable.

The holiday season is notoriously known as a time when some choose to have a few extra drinks, snack more than usual, or fuel the body with foods that are typically labeled as “bad” or “unhealthy” in a mindless or emotional state. How can you best prepare yourself for the holidays to avoid falling into a pattern of behaviors that are hurtful to your long term health?

Strive for balance and moderation
In all of the years I have been working in the field of food, body, and mental health, it has become more and more evident (with the support of sound research) that balance and moderation is key. Keeping in mind that the holidays tend to invite excess, it is a great opportunity to practice balance and moderation throughout the most wonderful time of the year. The drastic change from fall-fun to holiday-frenzy can trigger a fight, flight, or freeze response in the human brain because the busyness of the season increases our anxiety. This fight, flight, or freeze response is natural for all of us when stress and anxiety is heightened. But, if we use moderation as a tool, we could make this holiday season the best yet. Moderation is not something that comes without effort, so the following are a few things to try prior to carving that Thanksgiving turkey.

Have a practice run with the foods you wait all year to eat
For those of you who look forward to turkey day all year and fall into the trap of eating double if not triple your usual portion, have you ever thought of eating that meal more than once a year? Prepare a Thanksgiving meal now. By having a practice run with the foods you wait all year to eat, you will be less inclined to over eat. Doing life from a perspective of abundance versus deprivation (“I can eat this food in moderation whenever I want” versus “I can only allow myself to have this much”) is a much more sustainable perspective, and one that encourages us to be more intuitive with our eating and lowers our risk of mindless and binge eating.

Dress for body awareness
Another tip to keep you mindful around the dinner table is to wear clothing that keeps you aware of your body (in a good way, of course). Wearing stretchy clothing is comfortable, however it is harder to know when you are feeling full since the clothing easily expands. Wear jeans or something that is fitted to your body to help stay present with hunger and fullness cues.

Finding balance within your decision-making is a powerful tool. When choices make sense and feel good emotionally, we are typically living our best life. I hope that as the holidays approach you keep mindful of the importance of balance. This applies to your relationship with food, body and all the wonderful holiday events that are to come.

Alicia Ayvas, MSSW, LCSW, CEDS-S
Executive Director at Clarity Counseling, LLC

Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and DBT Specialized Psychotherapist

Ayvas offers evidenced-based treatment to individuals and families impacted by an eating disorder. She is committed to helping clients understand and fully overcome their eating disorders so they can achieve peace within their mind, body, and spirit. Ayvas holds a Masters in Science from Columbia University and is a certified eating disorder specialist through the International Academy of Eating Disorder Professionals. Her primary methods are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, and Family Based Therapy.

Clarity Counseling has locations in Gainesville and Reston. For more information, visit ClarityCounselingVA.com or call 571-318-9141.

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