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How to Set an Intention for Holiday Eating

Here in Maine, I’ve noticed several signs that it’s now autumn and the holidays are fast approaching. Less daylight, colder temperatures, changing leaves – and let’s not forget the Halloween candy already on shelves and a big Santa display I saw at Lowe’s in mid-September.

And with all of the holidays comes food. Candies, pies, cakes, turkeys, casseroles, and so much more.

In this environment, it can feel very hard to eat mindfully, but one thing that can help is setting an intention (or multiple intentions) about how you want to approach these special days and foods. Here are some tips to help you do that.

Think about how you want to feel after eating

A good starting point is to consider how you want to feel after eating these treats or meals. You probably don’t want to end up so stuffed that you feel sick and/or so tired that you spend the rest of the day sleeping. But you may also be okay with eating a little more than you might normally.

Think about the hunger/fullness scale. (As a reminder, a 1 = Ravenous, 5 = Satisfied, and 10 = so full you’re sick.) Normally, you might want to eat to a 5 (satisfied) or 6 (full). But on holidays, you might decide it’s fine to eat to a 7 (very full) or an 8 (feeling some discomfort but not yet stuffed).

Whatever you decide is fine. The goal is simply to make this more of a conscious process.

Be realistic

It also helps to be realistic about your eating. Don’t set an intention of eating to a 5 if you know you’ll feel deprived or be likely to overeat later.

Stick with the level of fullness that you’re comfortable with and feels achievable.

Remember that you may eat multiple times for a holiday

Another thing to remember in setting your intention is that eating can be spread across hours and/or meals. This is especially true of Thanksgiving, where you might have snacks or appetizers to start, followed by a big meal, and then having dessert. Your intention will need to adjust for each of those events.

For example, if your intention is to eat to a 7 or 8 overall, you don’t want to overdo it on the snacks. You may even want to skip them altogether, depending on the timing of your meals and how hungry you are, then eat to a 5 or 6 for the main meal so you can still have some dessert while sticking to your intentions.

Decide on must-have foods

One of the challenges with eating at this time of year is that you have so many options. You may feel like you should have some of everything, but realistically, you’d do better to focus on your favorites and start with those.

Whether it’s Halloween candy or a big dinner, part of your intention could be to decide which foods you most want and then have small amounts of those. If you’re still hungry after that, you may decide to try a few other things, but at least this way, you won’t feel cheated out of what you most wanted.

Be kind

And finally, even with these intentions firmly in mind, you may end up eating more than you’d wanted.

In those cases, be kind to yourself and withhold judgment. It’s a good idea to see what you can learn from the situation, but approach that with an attitude of compassion for yourself, not judgment.

Intentions help you enjoy the holidays

If you have an intention set for how you want to eat during the holidays, you’re likely to find that you can enjoy them more. Having a goal or focus in mind helps you be in charge of your eating, and that, in turn, helps you make better choices.


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