One of the big challenges we all face over the holidays is finding the balance between having fun, relaxing and avoiding holiday weight gain and falling out of your healthy habits (which you have worked so hard to maintain over this year!).  

I am a huge believer in allowing yourself to enjoy the holidays without the guilt and worry.  The reality is you are going to remember sitting around the table with friends and family, creating memories, through enjoying that piece of pavlova or having another champagne.  

So how can we find balance over the holidays? 

Simple, practice mindfulness… 

Mindfulness is not a new concept.  The concept of mindfulness is thought to have originated from both Hindu and Buddhist texts but is also present in other religious texts. More recently is has been adopted by psychologists and psychiatrists in the development of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.  

Firstly, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present during a particular moment in time. When you are practising mindfulness, you are there in a state of mind that is acting consciously and knowingly without being overwhelmed.  Mindfulness allows us to stop, process and assess a situation by tuning in to our inner self and focusing in on our values and objectives to help make better decisions. For me especially, when I sit down to eat I try to focus in on what I am eating by noticing the colours, aromas, flavours and textures that fill my plate. This ultimately helps me make better decisions when it comes to eating and drinking around the holiday season. 

Here are 7 ways to practice mindfulness these holidays: 

1. Pay attention to what you are putting on your plate

It’s easy to pile your plate with all your Christmas favourites, so before you take a seat at the table take a moment to think about what to put on your plate.  Fill it with lean protein, loads of vegetables and carbohydrates filled with fibre and that are low GI.  hese foods are all healthy and also will leave you feeling good and more energised throughout the day! 

2. Savour every bite and enjoy your family and friends

One simple way to practice mindful eating is to simply pay attention when you are eating.  Use all your senses and enjoy each bite.  Appreciate the way the food is presented, how it smells, notice the different textures and enjoy the taste. Chew your food and stop between bites.  Eating slower and more mindfully can help reduce overeating and allows you to be in the moment. Chewing slowly and eating mindfully will also reduce bloating and tummy pains. 

3. Notice how much dessert you are eating

We are all tempted by that fluffy pavlova and creamy Christmas triflebut we know (from experience!)that when we eat every single one we feel a little sick, right!? Try choosing only a  couple of your favourite desserts and having a few bites of each.  Notice if you actually want the dessert you are having, and when you are eating it enjoy every mouthful.  Try substituting fresh fruit after your meal for a natural dessert. It is Christmas after all, so try to let go of the guilt for a day!

4. Balance alcohol consumption

Try be conscious and mindful of how many drinks you are having and have water between drinks to stay hydrated. .  Drinking water also can help curb excessive food intake because our brain sometimes mistakes thirst from hunger. The extra water can also help prevent or reduce your  Boxing Day hangover!

5. Go for healthier options  

Try filling up the table with loads vegetables, whole grains and clean protein.  One benefit about having Christmas in summer is that you can make loads of delicious salads and fresh seafood! Dress your salads with wholesome dressings like olive oil, avocado oil, vinegar, lemon, mustard, and herbs for extra flavour.

6. Plan some time to move 

Being mindful about keeping some of your exercise routines up or try make sure you are going for at least 30 minute walk during the day. This will avoid you feeling sluggish and can give you more energy to be social and stay feeling healthy through the holiday break. 

7. Be present with your company

Enjoy your company. Laugh, talk, joke… be grateful, happy and kind.  Studies have shown that social interactions can be a great source of happiness and holidays spent with families and friends is a time to create memories and a sense of belonging leading to happiness and greater mental health.  
Practising mindfulness is beneficial always but it can be particularly helpful during holiday period. It’s a great way to focus on the present and help us  become more connected with each other,, which allows us to stay healthy both mentally and physically. 

Have a fantastic festive season and a happy and healthy New Year!