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The Yoga of Eating: 12 Tips to Avoid the Holiday Bulge

The holidays often become a time of excess for everyone....even those of us who live a healthy yoga lifestyle. Come January it will be the usual New Year’s resolution to diet or lose weight.

BUT, what if you could stay ahead of the game – or curves (lol!) and not have to sign up for a New Year resolution diet program? You can avoid putting on those extra pounds and still enjoy the holidays. Here’s how:

It’s called The Yoga of (Holiday) Eating—striking the right balance between mindfulness and enjoying yourself; between discipline and letting loose and having fun without restraint. The first key to developing and maintaining this zen attitude towards holiday eating is to start thinking about your plan of attack before the pressure is on to drop excess weight. This will allow you to have fun and explore new ways of eating instead of feeling deprived and bitter while all those around you are laughing, smiling, and enjoying the food and drink.

You might even learn some valuable things about yourself and your body (and hopefully how to have a little compassion for yourself amidst such temptation). Be realistic about your weight loss or weight gain goals during the holidays, and if you fall short of your expectations, don’t view it as a failure. Just accept the circumstances and get to work doing what you can to get back to where you want to be. Here are a few tips to help you keep your weight in check:

  • Make a new friend with yourself and your body: Many of us end up with extra pounds because over time we lose touch with the body’s natural signals of fullness. This season try to pay attention to your body and watch its reactions. Be mindful of eating and the affects you feel afterwards. Observe how the body tells you what it needs AND what it doesn’t need. Also notice how and when your mind overrules the body.

  • Be mindful of the other factors that also affect your relationship to food: The amount of sleep you get, your stress level, your mood, and lack of exercise also affect your eating habits, making you more likely to overeat.

  • Don’t judge yourself and don’t try and force change: As you establish greater awareness of your digestive processes and the body’s signals, you will gradually strengthen its self-regulating mechanisms. In time this will help you keep your weight in balance more than anything else.

  • Get creative with your food: Finding ways to “play” with your food can help you restructure mindless eating habits. For example: Experiment with taking smaller and smaller bites of what’s on your plate. Sink your teeth into the first couple of bites and then take increasingly smaller pieces. Give each morsel your full attention; savor each bite as much as you would a full mouthful. If you really crave it, don’t deny yourself that extra serving of pie. Instead, take half as much as you normally would and focus on enjoying it twice as much. Relish the taste; savor the joy of the flavors unfolding in your mouth. Make trade-offs. If you eat too much at one meal, eat less at the next or cut out something else you would normally consume.

  • When eating is related to your emotions: For many of us, overeating is linked to our emotions—affording a way to cheer us up or dull the pain of unresolved issues. If cravings are an issue for you, explore constructive ways to channel them. Eat healthy, low-calorie snacks: an apple, a handful of raw carrots with raisins, or a couple of graham crackers are delicious snacks that won’t make you put on weight. A cup of warm, delicious chai at the end of a meal can help curb the craving for a second helping.

  • Reconnect with your natural sense of being full: If we habitually overeat or eat between meals, we lose touch with the body’s in-built signals of when we are full and when we are hungry. Reconnecting with your sense of fullness is the best weight regulator out there – if you begin to eat only when you’re hungry, you will never gain excess weight. Many of us have years of bad eating habits which overrule the natural sense of fullness. To restore it, follow these simple steps: First, Try not to eat between meals—it disturbs your digestion and messes up the body’s appetite-regulating mechanisms. If you have to, indulge in healthy, easy-to-digest snacks like the ones listed above. Secondly, eat a balanced diet which includes fat, so you don’t end up starving between meals.

  • Stay close to Earth for your food: If we eat food that isn’t very nourishing, our body will continue to signal that it needs food, no matter how much we eat. To reduce cravings and overeating, make sure you get the nutrition you need. The closer your food is to the earth, the more nutritious, energizing, and nourishing it is. Choose whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are the most beneficial not only for regulating weight, but also for enhancing your overall health and wellness. Experiment with adding more and more whole foods to your diet.

  • Bring along the “band aids”: Approach your new eating habits with an attitude of curiosity and adventure. And bring lots of “band aids” for the trip! You will inevitably fall short. Don’t dwell, get right back at it.

  • Be Patient: Lasting change grows from the inside out, gradually. Avoid setting yourself up for the impossible; set realistic and sustainable goals. Attempts at change made with awareness, self-compassion, and patience will yield results over time.

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