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Slowing Down

Mindful eating through the holidays

Jen Johnson reminds herself to eat mindfully even through the holidays

Jen Johnson reminds herself to eat mindfully even through the holidays

Hold the raisin in your hand, and just look at it. You might be thinking ‘Oh, it’s ugly’ or that it’s pretty, but you’re noticing something now you didn’t before,” JEN JOHNSON directs me as I’m given a crash course on how to eat mindfully. “Rest it on your bottom lip. Take note of what impulses you’re having.”

Mouth watering is one of them, and I didn’t notice how truly weird the gummy texture of a raisin feels. I’m then told to eat the raisin and focus on the act completely. Johnson instructs me to take note of each different sensation and to be aware of how I feel when I consume the dried grape.

“When was the last time I focused so much on anything in that way?” I think to myself.

Johnson wears many different hats. As a counselor and coach, yoga and mindfulness teacher, and speaker, it’s a wonder how she can take a moment to be mindful herself.

Her objective through all her roles is to help others make sustainable life changes that support wellness, happiness, and success, and she works with clients locally as well as internationally by phone and Skype.

Johnson has lived a stressed life marked by trauma as a youth. When she was enrolled in college she took a stress management course. It was there she learned mindfulness meditation as a way to manage stress.

Her career in the art of mindfulness began in the mid-‘80s. Johnson was losing faith in her career as a therapist, but after becoming more involved with mindfulness she grew impassioned in her field.

That approach can be even more helpful this time of year, when the holidays bring an open season for sweet treats and overindulging. With a touch of mindfulness, the holiday guilt won’t be so galvanizing, Johnson points out.

“We eat things that make us feel bad or feel good, and we criticize ourselves for it. Learn to approach yourself with compassion,” she says.

To avoid over-eating, Johnson suggests setting clear intentions.

“What do you want for yourself?” she says. “If loads of sugar makes you feel tired and unhealthy, then there is no reason to be consuming it. It’s important to remember that all commitment is followed by imperfect action. If you couldn’t stay firm in your own commitment, there is no reason to beat oneself up for it.

“Think, ‘Okay, I veered off course, but I have the next moment,’ and move on.”

Johnson defines mindfulness as awareness of the present moment without judgment, being aware of what’s going on inside of yourself in terms of your body.

She reiterates the importance of being present, as this is a central component to mindfulness.

Another key in eating mindfully is to pre-plan, notes Johnson.

She follows a gluten-free, vegan diet, and she often brings dishes to dinners or offers recipes to friends to make. It gives them a chance to join and connect, and it allows her to stick with her intentions – even during the rush of holiday parties.

Mindful eating is about going slow and being conscious for the experience instead of barely registering what was just scarfed down. Things tend to be a bit better when we go a little slower.


Click here to see more photography by Jeff Janowski.

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