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Published on November 17, 2020

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Mindful Eating During the Holidays

Written by Heather Davies, RDN, LDN

Welcome to the holiday eating season! Traditionally we would all be getting ready for big gatherings for Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas parties, one after another, and New Year’s Eve bashes where we all look forward to what the next year has in store for us. However, it is 2020 and we are still in the middle of a pandemic. So instead, you may be planning a traditional meal for your immediate family, or a small gathering between close friends and loved ones.

No matter the circumstance this year, I can probably guess that the traditional holiday treats are calling your name. Especially as we try to find comfort in something normal.

Mindful Eating

Whatever your plans may be this year, I want to challenge you to be mindful with your holiday feasts, and all your other meals by engaging your 5 senses: sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. Even if you don’t have access to all your senses, engage with the ones you have. This is a practice of mindful eating.

Engaging your 5 senses help you connect with your body and better understand its wants and needs. It sounds simple but ask yourself, when was the last time you acknowledged all of these senses while eating? You may notice most when they are missing (like a stopped up nose when you have a cold), or you may notice one more than another when you are excited, but engaging with all of them takes practice.  

TIP: When you first try this task, try to do it without distractions; turn off the TV, leave your phone in another room, consider eating alone, or invite the others at your table to give it a try. Then use these simple steps of mindfulness to guide your meal:

  • Sight: Gather descriptions about the food.  What is catching your eye about that food? What is its shape or color? Is it round? Is it tall? Is it brown? Or is it red?
  • Smell: What does it smell like? Is it fragrant? Does it overwhelm your senses? Is it bright and fruity? Or is it rich and savory? Is the smell linked to any memories or emotions?
  • Touch: If it is something you can pick up, how does it feel? When you take a bite, what textures are you feeling? Is it crunchy? Soft
  • Hearing: When you hold it does it make a sound? As you eat it does it make a sound? Is there a crinkle of a wrapper? Is there a crunch? Or a squish?
  • Taste: What flavors are you experiencing from the food? Is it salty or sweet? Buttery or sour?

Law of Diminishing Pleasure

Taste is one of the main factors that encourages us to keep eating. Especially during the holidays when we are consuming a food that is not highlighted regularly during the year, like pumpkin pie, or, for me, Puerto Rican Pasteles. This excitement for the food can cause us to overindulge and feel uncomfortable. The same is true when we have a large variety of foods, like buffets or holiday parties, we tend to overeat as we want to indulge in all there is to offer. 

Consider Dr. Rick Kausman’s method, author of “If Not Dieting, Then What?, which he calls the law of diminishing pleasure:

For each bite you take rank it on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the least pleasurable to 10 being the most pleasurable. As pleasure starts to decrease, stop eating the food. This method grows off of our ability to engage our senses in a meal.

No matter what your holiday’s have in store for you, the key is that you take a moment to be grateful for the things you have: your health, your family, your pets, your job, love, your friendships, a home, etc… and enjoy every second of the time you have this holiday season!


This article was written by outpatient dietitian Heather Davies RDN, LDN. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with a dietitian, call 919-938-6597

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