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Has food become the background music to your life?

Michelle May


Labor Day (in the U.S.) marks the end of summer barbecues and the beginning of holiday eating. Before our bathing suits are 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, like the background music to our lives.

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 eat.

As one of our Am I Hungry? 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 returns pleasure to eating

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.

Your turn!

We are working on a special program to help with holiday eating – but we need your help!

In the Comments below, please share your biggest holiday eating challenges! Is it your Grandmother’s pie? The sheer abundance of foods? Foods you don’t eat the rest of the year? Or something else?

This article has been updated from a previously published version.

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more that you might find helpful:

Emotional Eating during the Holidays

Three Ways to Handle Triggers for Holiday Overeating

7 Tips for Guilt-Free Holiday Eating – the Mindful Way!

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14 thoughts on “Has food become the background music to your life?”

      1. I think it’s the relaxing around the holidays that starts it all. It’s a “special” time, so it’s ok to overindulge (the excuse) Lots of terrible habits along the years, I suppose.

  1. All the holiday foods have good memories. They are all comfort foods , pies, cakes , variety of cookies , party snacks ,and the traditional dinners with all the fixings . Even the beverages such as egg nog and punch are comfort beverages . Just can ‘t have them in the house for too long

  2. Traditional!

    Family always gathered at Thanksgiving and Christmas for Food and fellowship… how do you break that tradition with other family members.

  3. Wanting to try just a little bit of several different dishes often leaves me with a very full plate that exceeds the quantity that will actually satisfy me. The family rule of “if you take it then you eat it” applies to everyone regardless of how old you may be! The result is often overeating and enjoying it at the time but then feeling like the stuffed turkey later. My plan is to be more strategic this year…I know what the traditional foods taste like and don’t need to eat what I bring (unless I really want to) so I’m going to focus on enjoying the company and eating the foods that will add to that enjoyment.

  4. Hard to figure out one particular hard thing; it’s a perfect storm! Even greater access than usual in our culture to all kinds of delicious things. Extra busy-ness to provide stress and reduce time to make good plans. Foods that are tied up with good memories, perhaps of long-gone relatives. Cold weather encouraging heavier foods for many of us. Food prepared by others, who we imagine will be hurt if we don’t keep eating. Etc, etc. No wonder balance, variety and moderation struggle.

  5. The thing I crave is the family’s Lime-Pine salad. It is made of lime jello (with sugar), crushed pineapple, cashews, and sour cream.(full fat). Recent attempts to cut the sugar have failed due to being allergic the the artificial sweetener in jello. We have substituted low fat sour cream, though. The problem is, once tasted it’s hard to not go back, and back again.

  6. The first thought I had after reading the article was “stuffing.” This made me laugh and say: “it’s only cubes of bread, etc.” what’s the big deal? I still have several small bags of last year’s in my freezer. Time for those to go in the trash. Since beginning my adventures with Mindful Eating and your work, it has become easier to put food in how I choose when, what, how, how much and where into perspective. Just this morning in my reflection time regarding another different challenge (not food related), the words ‘Trust the process’ came to mind. Thank you, Michelle.

  7. What about the pressure NOT to eat even though there is an abundance of food? Comments like “do you really need to be eating that?” are very triggering to people with a history of eating disorders and dieting. This plays into the good fatty/bad fatty and good food/bad food conundrum. A “good fatty” resists eating the “bad food” while lamenting their inability to enjoy it while a “bad fatty” eats the “bad food” and perhaps is even audacious enough to not apologize for their terrible sin.

    1. Absolutely! In our fatphobic culture, people sometimes believe they have the right to police others. It is just another form of weight stigma and is particularly harmful to those with a history of eating disorders!

  8. For me, it’s wanting to taste a little bit of everything I find appealing. Taking a spoonful of several different dishes, and then realizing that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Also all the snacks and appetizers before the meal. Then after eating, I don’t have room for dessert, which is the most fun part! 🙂

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