The holiday season is here. However you might celebrate, for most of us it involves eating. Lots of eating – often followed by a “food hangover” or weight gain and a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and eat healthier. Does this yearly mantra sound familiar?
Whether you want to avoid overeating and gaining those extra pounds, you need to control your blood sugar or you simply wish to consume only what your body needs, the food paradise of the holiday season can make it challenging. But mindful eating might help. Mindful eating is the practice of being aware of and paying attention to what we are eating in the present moment, without judgement.
We often eat more mindlessly this time of year. With so many tasty options, we can be like the turkeys we consume. We gobble and gulp like it is our last meal! At the same time, we are worried about eating too many sweets, counting calories and wondering if we have a “thigh gap”.
The joy of eating should come from the way the food looks, smells, tastes and feels. It’s about being in that moment and slowing down so that you can fully enjoy a meal, festive snacks and treats without over-indulging. The holidays can be stressful. For those who binge eat or eat for comfort or out of stress, bringing awareness to your habits can help curb the overeating and self-criticism cycle.
Here are 10 tips for more joyful holiday eating. Try a few and see how they work for you.
Before you begin eating, take a moment to notice how you feel. Rushed? Stressed? Bored? Sad? Hungry? Is the food a need or a want? Then ask yourself, “Do I want to eat? What do I want to eat? How do I want to eat”?
2. Listen to yourself.
It’s good to remember that another person couldn’t possibly tell us how hungry we are or what we are in the mood for. There’s always someone at the party convincing you to “Go ahead, have another, they’re so good!”. Try to tune out comments made by others when it comes to your food choices, and listen to your internal cues.
3. Eat what you really love.
Skip anything that isn’t fabulous! The first few bites are for flavour, the rest are for fuel. After the first few delicious bites, the flavour begins to fade anyway, so you’re just eating a memory. Appreciate every aspect of what you are eating before taking another bite.
4. Love what you eat.
Sensuously savour one small bite at a time, appreciating the appearance, aromas, flavours and textures of your favourite foods as you eat them. Engaging each of your senses can make for a very pleasurable experience and you may find you are satisfied with less.
5. Slow down.
Prepare your body and mind for what you are about to eat by taking 3 deep breaths before you start. Deep breathing calms the body and brings you to the present moment.
6. Put your fork down.
Slow yourself down even further by placing your utensils on the table between bites. Or if you have a treat on a party napkin, place the treat back on the napkin. Breathe. Break the habit of gulping down your food. Taste it; enjoy it! It’s better for your health and helps you to remain conscious of the act of eating.
7. Give thanks.
Use these moments to acknowledge gratitude for the ingredients, where they come from, how they got to your table and the process that transformed them into something delicious.
8. Repeat this simple phrase: “Think before you eat”.
Remind yourself that mindful eating has an added benefit. Because it can take up to 20 minutes for the brain to receive the satiety signal, the slower you eat, the less likely you are to overeat.
Enjoy your food delights in good company. Why not split that dessert with someone? Pour a large eggnog into two smaller glasses. Cut larger portions into appetizer size. Same great taste, less guilt!
10. Practice without judgement.
Let’s face it, we are human. We aren’t going to be mindful of every mouthful and being hard on ourselves gets us nowhere. The holiday season gives us lots of opportunities to practice mindful eating. You can always make a fresh start with the next bite.
So put the pleasure back into your holiday eating without the guilt of overindulgence. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
Interested in learning more about mindful eating?
- Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, by Dr. Jan Chozen Bays.