Give New Meaning to Holiday Traditions with Mindful Eating
Nina Herndon
November 28, 2022
August 16, 2023
Be Inspired

Growing up I celebrated all of my family’s traditional holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter – twice in one day, which meant two big meals (and desserts!) in one day. As someone who loves food, it worked out in my favor and, unsurprisingly, gathering around the table to eat became one of my favorite holiday traditions.

What didn’t work out in my favor, and in the favor of many women I know, was how my love of food eventually turned into a battle. As I started to understand what was accepted as “beautiful” I quickly learned what foods were “good” and “bad,” and if I was going to eat “bad” foods they needed to be “earned.” I don’t think it takes long for any young woman or girl struggling with insecurity to come to the conclusion that holiday foods fall into the latter category, especially if we ever want to be as attractive (read: skinny) as the women we see in magazines and movies. What was once a joyful holiday tradition became filled with guilt and shame.

A Life-Changing Practice: Mindful Eating

After many holidays spent obsessing over avoiding the foods I loved, I discovered the practice of mindful eating. While it is still just that – a practice – mindful eating has changed my perspective and allows me to reconnect with the joy that holiday foods bring me.

Mindful eating is a powerful tool that is accessible to anyone, anywhere. It is a practice that teaches us how to slow down to savor the moment and find gratitude for the food we’re eating, the people we’re eating with, and the people who make it all possible – all the way from the farmer to the chef. It is a practice that can make our holiday traditions even more special, and free us from our shame and guilt. 

How to Practice Mindful Eating

Practicing mindful eating only has one requirement: the willingness to spend a moment in appreciation. 

I know how easy it is to eat meals on the couch while watching my favorite show, at my desk while working, or sitting at the table scrolling my phone. And those things aren’t “bad,” but to focus your attention on the practice of mindful eating, I want to challenge you to turn off the TV, put your phone on “do not disturb,” and sit at a clutter-free table.

You don’t have to start with a full meal and it doesn’t have to be homemade – do whatever works best for you. Put a place setting together – a fancy glass with a beverage you enjoy, a folded napkin, a placemat, and your food on a real plate – and, if you can, add some flowers and turn on soft music. 

  • Start by sitting comfortably, with your feet on the ground and your hands in your lap.
  • Close your eyes and observe your breath.
  • Notice your body as you breathe. How does it feel? Where are you holding tension? Can you let go of the tension?
  • Opening your eyes softly, take a moment to notice the color and texture of the food in front of you.
  • If there’s something you can place in your hand like bread or fruit, place it in your hand and notice how it feels in your hand. Notice the texture, shape and weight.
  • Now, imagine where it came from. Imagine the seed being planted by the farmer, the journey and people it took to get to your plate. Spend a moment of gratitude for that journey.
  • Take a deep inhale, and smell the aroma of your food.
  • Notice, are you anticipating what it will taste like? Is your mouth watering?
  • Slowly, take your first bite. For a moment, keep it in your mouth without chewing and explore what it feels like in your mouth.
  • Begin to chew and before swallowing, notice how the taste, flavor and texture changes. 
  • As you swallow, savor the taste and sensation. Think of the nourishment and fuel that this food is giving you. 
  • Take a moment to be grateful for this moment.
  • Continue to enjoy each bite as you slow down and savor each moment of your meal. 
  • After you’re done eating, reflect on what you gained from this experience.

Mindful eating can also be practiced with a group – maybe you want to try this around the table with your family this holiday season, or maybe you want to share it with friends from work. Pick one item (dessert is always a great choice) and have one person lead your group in the mindful eating exercise. 

Make More of Your Holidays with Mindfulness

Mindfulness allows us to turn our holiday tradition into more, by taking the time to truly appreciate what we have — the simple things, the special people in our lives and the time we have together.

What better way to honor ourselves, our loved ones and our holiday traditions than by being truly present in the moment. If you need a little help kickstarting a mindfulness practice, consider joining us at one of our upcoming Mindfulness & Healing Retreats or Mindfulness & Meditation Retreats.

This blog is intended to provide helpful suggestions for self care and overall well-being. I am not a mental health professional. If you’re struggling I encourage you to seek the help of a professional. Find a Mental Health Professional | National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988

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Nina Herndon

Nina believes women have an incredible ability to help one another, and is driven to cultivate safe spaces for them to do so. Over the years she has helped her mom to grow Retreat in the Pines to reach as many women as possible.

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