It’s the perfect time of year to embrace the joy of living and eating. Yes, eating can and should be joyful, no matter the time of year. And yet, we count calories and sips of eggnog, and torture ourselves with a guilt-laden combination of weigh-ins and self-loathing. There is nothing joyous about it.
To find the joy, shift your intentions away from weight-loss and the number on scale and focus on nourishing your body instead. When you strive to create a nourishing plate of food, you naturally crowd out less-nourishing foods without feeling deprived. You’ll feel quite empowered. Positive intentions create positive results.
But shifting your perspective toward food takes practice. Begin by starting a gratitude practice rooted in self-respect, self-love and compassion. In turn, you’ll begin to embody a healthy way of living that allows you to actually enjoy a holiday party or savor a guilt-free cookie all the while caring for yourself and truly appreciating each moment. Here’s how:
1. Start each day with a positive affirmation.
Self-love is truly the foundation of healthy living. Remind yourself of these intentions regularly: “I deeply love and respect myself” and “I eat to nourish my body.” These reminders are particularly important when old habits take over and you stray off the path. (It’s bound to happen and that’s OK.) Just reset and move forward, remembering your intentions and expressing gratitude that you’re alive. (read more)
Stress, which is common this time of year, has been shown to have many negative outcomes on your health. Your breath is one of the most potent medications to relieve stress. Get in the habit of pausing to take cleansing, mindful breaths each and every day. Don’t get overwhelmed with the idea of establishing an intense meditation practice. Instead, do something as simple as taking one purposeful breath (read more).
Try it right now. Stop what you’re doing. Close your eyes. Inhale fully and exhale completely. Note the power of this one purposeful breath and consider how transformative a few more may be. When you pause to breathe, you have the opportunity to make a decision outside of your norm, as well as the space to be grateful. Gratitude can be found in the most difficult of situations – if you choose to embrace it.
3. Practice food gratitude.
Take the time to consider the beauty of the food on your plate, whether it’s a brownie or a bowlful of kale. Food gratitude offers you the space to appreciate and enjoy every bit that you take because it’s nourishing or delicious or both. You can be grateful for the hard-working hands that brought this food to your plate, the tradition behind a dish or its nourishment. You get the point. I find that I can feel immensely grateful for even a simple plate of nourishing ingredients. When I make the space to truly taste each bite the food gratitude is amplified. (read more)
4. Savor each bite.
Flavor often drives our food choices, yet we often forget to taste our food. Give yourself permission to enjoy your food – even a more indulgent food choice –and savor each bite. When you are truly engaged in an eating experience, it becomes more meaningful and joyful. You’ll be satisfied after a few bites. Try it. I will often take one spoonful of ice cream and really enjoy savoring the bite–I think about the flavor, the texture, the coolness in my mouth. I focus on how freaking good it tastes and revel in it. Once it’s gone I am usually satisfied. Even better, I feel good about the experience. There is no shame or guilt. Just pure bliss.
5. Enjoy the scene.
Food is often thought of as the centerpiece of a gathering, especially around the holidays. But a gratitude check may change your perspective. What else is there to be grateful for in these moments? Time with family and friends? Traditions? Shift your focus from the food to the joy of the experience and the appetizer table will become less meaningful. Be mindful and set clear intentions for yourself around food and drink choices. Be gentle with yourself, but clear in the fact that overindulging will lead to feelings of shame and guilt that can ruin an otherwise good time.
What are you grateful for this time of year?
*Adapted from my article originally posted on US News.