Holiday Mindfulness

By Scott Sohn

The holidays are upon us once again, and that often entails friends and families joining together over food and cocktails. There are sure to be lots of delectable food and drink choices available, and it can be challenging to stick to a healthy eating pattern during these festive times. But as long as we pay attention and mindfully consume food and drink, the holiday season doesn’t have to throw a curveball into our healthy lifestyles. 

The three main areas where people get sidetracked have to do with grazing, portion control, and drinking. Many times, we attend parties and are immediately confronted with a wide array of delicious hors d’ oeuvres just begging to be sampled. These are the times when one can get distracted and begin grazing mindlessly, consuming lots of extra calories without realizing it. The trick is to stay present and to be aware of everything that touches your lips during the evening. Allow yourself to enjoy some of the treats, but just be mindful and use discretion and savor every bite. 

Another area people get into trouble with involves portion control. It’s very easy to get swept up in the excitement of all the wonderful food and end up with an oversized heaping plateful. Use the MyPlate method to fill half of your 7-8-inch dinner plate with fruits and vegetables. The other half of your plate should consist of your protein and starch. A three-ounce serving of meat, about the size of a bar of soap, is a healthy serving size that provides 21 grams of protein. When choosing your starchy carbohydrate foods, portion control is again the key to a healthy and balanced plate. Remember that one carbohydrate serving equals 15 grams of carbohydrates. A balanced diet includes 3-5 servings of carbs per meal or about 12-15 servings per day (180-225 grams/day). So be mindful, know that bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, ice cream, and cookies are all carbohydrate sources. Additionally, beverages like soda, juice, and drink mixers usually contain high amounts of sugar that also contribute to your daily carbohydrate intake. A regular 12 ounce can of soda, juice, or a sports drink, for instance, can contain up to 45 grams of carbohydrates (3 carb servings). 

The third and most vexing area of overindulgence and debauchery during the holiday season stems from alcohol consumption. Getting caught up in the spirit of things too overzealously can have a disastrous effect not only on your body but on your social life as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the festivities and neglect our health. During the holidays, we are likely to stay up later than usual, drink more, and experience more stress. All these things weaken our immune systems and leave our bodies more susceptible to illnesses. You don’t need to be getting run down with so many extra holiday smooches coming your way. 

That’s why practicing mindfulness in the face of a stressful holiday season is the best way to stay grounded and healthy and to ensure a smooth entry into the new year. Being mindful in our everyday lives, and especially during the holiday season, can have a huge positive impact on the way we engage and navigate through social situations and stressful times. It’s important to come into the holiday season feeling strong and healthy. 

Try to adhere to your regular diet and workout plan as much as possible during the holiday season. The body likes routine and functions at its best when we are staying in balance with proper nutrition and regular exercise. During the holidays, follow these tips to maintain a healthy and pleasurable party experience. 

Eat Before You Go Out

Don’t starve yourself before attending a party, thinking you’ll want to save room to eat even more later. Eating a huge meal in one sitting is taxing on the body and will cause drowsiness, lethargy, and weight gain

Limit Alcohol 

Alcohol is full of empty calories and causes the opposite of mindfulness, mindlessness. 

Drink Water

At least 1.5 liters per day. 

Socialize Away from the Food Table 

Standing near the food can cause unwanted temptation. 

Practice Mindfulness 

Being mindful is simply being present and deliberate in the way we interact with the world and with ourselves. Be aware of everything that we put into our bodies. Staying mindful during the holidays means paying attention to how we are caring for ourselves physically and spiritually. 

Scott is a local Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in men’s health and wellness programs. Learn more at

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