'Tis the Season(ing): A Mindful Holiday Hunger Routine – Psychology Today

'Tis the Season(ing): A Mindful Holiday Hunger Routine – Psychology Today

Ego and self-serving biases shape the life story we share with the world—and with ourselves. The good news: An internal reckoning will help us better comprehend who we truly are.
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Posted December 13, 2021 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
What a blessing it is for many of us to be returning to some carefully curated holiday cheer—whether by the preferential benefit of vaccination, or at least by deep care taken in distancing, masking, and the other mitigation tactics ingrained in this benighted era of viral risk. The season brings its flavorful side—the party snacks, the tradition-bound mega meals, and the festive desserts and sweets. Of course, there’s also the array of beverages that slosh along with all that deliciousness.
Even absent or prior to the recent COVID doomscape, many of us have routinely wrestled with the calories, the craving, and the mindful consciousness (or lack thereof) in seasonal eating. We’re hungry (heh) for some tools to use.
(In the recent Thanksgiving post, I seemed to suggest we may throw caution to the wind in terms of gastronomic enjoyment. I’m not trying to confuse you, dear reader. A close reading of that post will hopefully assure you that the prior topic was about mindful enjoyment of the sensory and emotional experiences of family, food, and belonging.)
Yes, this is another moment that we can apply some meditative chops to bring clearer awareness to what we’re ingesting—less impulse, more deliberation. And Your Mindfulness Toolkit® need not include duct tape or a mouth gag. Instead, consider this brief hybrid (as in part meditation, part cognitive/behavioral) exercise. It’s a spinoff of the Mindful Breather routine I’ve turkey-trotted out before. Call it the “the Hungry Breather,” if you’d like; it’s another moment to pause (that’s the hard part!) and take a quick inventory. You can find a handy PDF on my website under “Resources.”
First, let’s order a brief conceptual appetizer for examining oral craving, including hunger and thirst. In some other media content on mindful eating practices for kids, I’ve worked with pediatrics researchers who have identified up to 10 kinds of hunger. In the service of brevity, I’ll simplify it to three: body, heart, and head.
So, to the exercise. First, that hard part: Some intention is necessary, and maybe even a reminder in mid-celebration to tune in, to check in with yourself. A cellphone alarm can help here, as can a buddy system with a friend or family member. Then, commence with some mindful wheezing, using abdominal or “belly” breathing. We use it to help visualize a slow “gathering” of attention on the inhalation and directing out of attention on each exhalation. With each slow, deep in-breath, imagine gathering energy and attention in the chest; with each out-breath, “breathe attention into” each of these targets of hungry experience:
A final word: Being more tuned into how hunger operates, whether at a holiday fete or on a mundane, midnight trip to the fridge, is not meant to be some puritan restriction on the enjoyment of food. But we can have our cake … mindfully. Happy holidays!
References
Sazima MD, G.(2021) Practical Mindfulness: A Physician’s No-Nonsense Guide to Meditation for Beginners. Miami, FL:Mango Publishing.
Greg Sazima, M.D., is a psychiatrist, faculty at the Stanford/O’Connor Family Medicine Residency Program, and author of Practical Mindfulness: A Physician’s No-Nonsense Guide to Meditation for Beginners.
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Ego and self-serving biases shape the life story we share with the world—and with ourselves. The good news: An internal reckoning will help us better comprehend who we truly are.

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