November marks the beginning of the holiday season. Merchants are anxious to promote the newest gifts for consumers, families find a few more events on the calendar and I find myself beginning to listen closer to add to "wish lists" for family. I love this time of year, but one of my greatest challenges is the enjoyment of the special foods and treats that tend to add more than a few extra calories.

I’d like to invite you to join me in the Zero Weight Gain Email Wellness Challenge that runs from Nov. 20 through Jan. 2. This is a statewide Live Healthy, Live Well event with OSU Extension that runs for six weeks. You will receive two weekly emails with tips from OSU Extension professionals. During the six weeks you will:

— Be encouraged, motivated and supported to stay on track and maintain, not-gain, weight this holiday season.

— Track progress on wellness goals during the challenge.

— Increase physical activity to include at least 30 minutes of movement five times per week.

— Learn ways to help your Zero Weight Gain over the holidays: Move more, and strengthen your positive health habits.

— Fill your plate half-full of vegetables and fruits two meals each day.

— Write in your gratitude journal each day.

What does it cost? Nothing — it is free. Any adult with an email account may join by going to http://go.osu.edu/WayneZW and signing up. We all need a little extra encouragement to reinforce our will power, so why not give it a try? If you have any questions, feel free to call the office at 330-264-8722.

While we are on the subject of food, I’d like to share some tips on Mindful Eating. How often do we grab something to eat on the go, or sit down with a box or bag of a snack to realize we ate the whole thing ?

What is Mindful Eating? Mindful eating is not a diet. There are no menus or recipes. It is being more aware of your eating habits, the sensations you experience when you eat, and the thoughts and emotions you have about food. It is more about how you eat than what you eat. —Susan Albers, eatingmindfully.com

When we pay attention to our bodies, we can ask ourselves the following questions:

Awareness is the cornerstone of mindful eating. Are you really tasting your food or mindlessly munching away?

Do you savor food when you eat, noticing the texture, aroma, flavor?

Are you in-the-moment? Fully present? This may mean turning off the TV, sitting down. Your mantra can be "when you eat, just eat."

Observe how your body feels before and after you eat. Notice how your body feels when you are truly full.

Non-judgment — Speaking mindfully and compassionately to yourself, instead of being ruled by shoulds and guilt when you eat. (eatingmindfully.com)

When you sit down to eat today, just ask yourself these questions, and see what a difference it might make in your life. In our hurried up, rushed world, we need to take time to savor the moment, and mindful eating can really help with that.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.