The holidays provide a dizzying array of influences that can set you up to fall into the spiral of unwanted weight gain, moodiness, brain fog, and exhaustion. The combination of stress, decreased levels of serotonin due to shorter days, consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, and reduction in your exercise program is a set-up for disaster if you aren’t prepared for it.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to control what happens over the holidays. Mindfulness refers to being aware and in the present moment. Most of us have about ten other things on our minds. We are preoccupied about what happened yesterday and worried about what is going to happen tomorrow. And stressed about what might happen next week. It’s no wonder that about 95% of the eating we do is mindless.

Try this instead.

5 Strategies for Mindfulness

  1. Savor Your Goodies ― Sit down. No really, sit down, relax and savor the cookie. Enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each bite will naturally help you slow down and stop when you’re full.
  2. Take Care of Your Physical Body ― Adequate sleep and exercise are the first things that come to mind. Did you know that after just one poor night’s sleep, the next day your hormones are imbalanced, and you spend the whole day craving carbohydrates. Do everything you can to get 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
    Exercise is a great way to get your body moving and help you create an aware mind. Not only will it help you feel great, but you will also be able to deal with the holiday rush more calmly and the food cues that are everywhere in your environment at this time of year.
  3. Rethink Holiday Traditions ― One of the most proactive moves you can make to keep a handle on the holidays is to simplify — everything you can. The more you simplify the less stress you will experience. For some of us, stress is a trigger for over eating sugary junk food.

    Also, try to find ways to get outside in nature with your family and friends as a holiday tradition instead of hanging around food all day. You will feel calmer, more connected and less in need of nurturing yourself with food.
  4. Have a Plan for Holiday Activities ― Walking in to a holiday party unprepared is a big mistake. Or shopping all day without a break and a decent lunch. Both situations set you up to be ravenous in the presence of many foods that can wreak havoc on your plan to eat healthier. If you have the right intention it puts you in the driver’s seat. Just pause to think of the day ahead and create a plan where you can access whole foods that contain protein, healthy fat and fiber. If you need to, bring food with you. Just check with the hostess first to make sure it is ok. A big platter of crudités with a delicious dip is always a great addition.
  5. Eat What You Love and Forgo the Rest ― If the snickerdoodle cookies just don’t do it for you, why waste your calories? Or if you don’t love fruitcake, why are you eating it? But if grandma’s pumpkin pie is on your love list, go for it. Just be mindful about what you are doing. Once again: Sit down, relax and focus on the pie. Enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each bite will enhance your experience and help you feel more satisfied.

You CAN make it through the holidays without gaining weight. Manage your appetite by eating foods that nourish you and pack lots of fiber, protein and healthy fats. And don’t set yourself up to deprive yourself of certain foods that are important to you. Just make sure to move your body, have a plan and be conscious. Happy Holidays!