Labor Day marks the end of summer barbecues and the beginning of holiday eating. Before our bathing suits dry, we’ll be sorting through the kid’s Halloween candy while they’re at school, baking holiday cookies, and planning traditional family meals.
I love all that but it’s easy to confuse the holidays with food. For many people, the holidays have become an excuse to eat foods they don’t allow themselves to have at other times. This special occasion mentality often leads to overeating, discomfort, and guilty thoughts of a New Year’s resolution looming just around the corner.
Another challenge is that “special” occasions are almost a daily occurrence in modern day. Do you remember reading Little House on the Prairie? Laura was so excited to find an orange in her stocking on Christmas morning. Now, in our abundant food environment, we eat out frequently, go to happy hour, and bring donuts in for our co-workers – yet still use these daily events as a reason to overeat.
As one of our Am I Hungry? workshop participants put it, “Food has become the background music to my life! It sets the mood but I hardly pay attention to it anymore.”
Mindful eating helps put food into its proper context. By becoming mindful of our connections with food and more intentional about connecting with the present experience of eating, food returns to a lovely way to bring pleasure into our daily lives and significance to special occasions. Mindful eating also helps us recognize when eating has become our primary source of pleasure. Finding that delicate balance may be even more challenging, but also more important during the coming holidays when delicious food is everywhere.
So, when food is the main event, allow it to be a symphony (or a rock concert if you prefer), not the background music. Just remember to ask yourself, “If this occasion is so special, why would I want to ruin it by eating too much and feeling miserable afterward?”