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

By: 
Eva Norlyk Smith

The holidays are often a time of excess for everyone--even those with an otherwise healthy yoga lifestyle. Come January, it's little surprise that most New Year's resolutions have something to do with dieting or loosing weight. However, instead of signing up for the usual binge/diet program, why not stay ahead of the curve(s) this year? Secret: you can avoid putting on those extra pounds and still enjoy the holidays. Here's how:

We call it The Yoga of (Holiday) Eating—striking the right balance between mindfulness and enjoying one's self, 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 simply 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.

In the process, you might also 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:

1. Make a New Friend

Many of us end up pudgy or overweight because, over time, we lose touch with the body’s natural signals of satiety. This season, try to pay attention to your body and watch its reactions. Be mindful of the experience of eating and the effects 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.

2. Pay attention to how other factors affect your relationship to food.

This includes how much sleep you get, your stress level, your mood, and lack of exercise also affect your eating habits, making you more liable to overeat.

3 Don’t judge yourself and don’t try to force change.

As you establish greater awareness of your digestive processes and the body’s signals, you will gradually strengthen its self-regulating mechanisms. Over the long term, this will help you keep your weight in balance more than anything else.

6. Play with Your Food

Yes, I know what Mama told you, but we’re not talking about turning mashed potatoes into mountains. Finding ways to play with your food can help you restructure mindless eating habits. For starters, try these exercises:

7. Divide Fractions. 

To avoid overeating at holiday meals, 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; explore ways to savor each bite as much as you would a full mouthful.

8. Have Your Cake and Eat It Too. 

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 ecstasy of the flavors unfolding in your mouth.

9. Wheel & Deal.

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.

10. Try Tricks for Treats. 

There are many reasons why we eatmore than we need. 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.

Try not to eat between meals—it disturbs your digestion and messes up the body’s appetite-regulating mechanisms. But if you have to, indulge in healthy, easy-to-digest snacks like the ones listed above.

11. Stay Close to Earth.

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. Favor 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.

12. Bring Lots of Band-Aids

Approach changing your eating habits with an attitude of curiosity and adventure. And bring lots of band-aids for the trip! Inevitably you will fall short; but each time, simply get right back at it. 

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.