Eine Tasse Weihnachtskaffee

Food, Celebrations, and Good Health

However you’re celebrating this holiday, we hope you’re feeling warm and well loved. Along with all those good feelings, no doubt some special food and celebrations may be coming your way.

Holiday Cooking, Food, and Memories

Jennifer Finney Boylan tells us that this holiday season is full of bittersweet memories. But cooking and eating can remind us of the most joyful times:

After a certain age, Christmas can arrive with a little darkness. I’m used to it by now, the way the ghosts of Christmas Past sneak up on me, but it’s still hard. I miss my parents and lament broken friendships. I worry about getting older, about the fate of the earth, about the presidency of this terrible man.

So there I was, one morning last week, sitting by the fire in my house in Maine as the tears rolled down. Then my 13-year-old Labrador, Ranger, came over and put his gray muzzle on my lap. His tail thumped upon the floor. Hey you, the dog seemed to say. Remember the good things. Like this?

When I focus on the good things, I think, above all, of being around a table with my family.

Mindful About Food, Family, and Loved Ones

The holidays bring forth complicated feelings that we link back to the food and occasions we’re enjoying. And so we find ourselves immersed in seemingly endless cues to eat more of this and that, some of which we don’t really want. Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.

Folks who study eating behaviors call this external eating. No doubt about it, food cues are abundant during the holidays and they’re powerful. But this is one situation where a little bit of mindfulness can be helpful.

Yes, mindful eating has become a bit of cliché. Some people assign magical powers to it. Although we’re not ready to fall in line with magical thinking, we don’t doubt that mindfulness can help with unhealthy eating behaviors and challenging situations. And for sure, holiday celebrations can qualify as challenging situations.

So thinking about a few basic principles of mindful eating is worthwhile. Pay attention to how fast you eat – and slow down so you can enjoy it. Take time to listen to your body telling you that it’s satisfied. Are you really hungry for that? Be careful about portion sizes – more is just more, it’s not better. Separate your eating from distractions. If you’re enjoying a conversation, focus on that. Don’t try to focus on both food and friends at once. Take them one at a time. By doing that, you can fully savor the food you enjoy.

Above all, be sure to fully enjoy the important rituals of food, family, friends, and the holiday. Guilt has no place at the table. We wish you the very best of this holiday season.

Click here for more on the evidence for mindful eating practices and here for more about celebratory foods in diverse cultures.

Eine Tasse Weihnachtskaffee, photograph © Marco Verch / flickr

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December 25, 2018

2 Responses to “Food, Celebrations, and Good Health”

  1. January 03, 2019 at 6:01 pm, Jennie Brand-Miller said:

    Happy New Year Ted! I’m catching up on your newsletters over past few week. Reading this particular reminded me that we need to reclaim the phrase PARTY FOOD in place of JUNK FOOD and that there’s a place/time for party food, just like party clothes. We wouldn’t wear party clothes every day, we reserve them for special times and we really enjoy these occasions without feeling guilty. And so it should be for party food. We give children mixed messages if we say cakes/cookies/chocolate etc are junk foods and then offer them on their birthday and other celebrations. Cheers Jennie

  2. January 03, 2019 at 6:31 pm, Ted said:

    Well said, Jennie. Thanks and Happy New year to you!