It’s the time of year for holiday and potluck parties – and that means an endless spread of appetizers and your coworker’s “world famous” spinach and artichoke dip. When surrounded with all the foods we love it’s important to practice mindful eating to keep from over indulging. Mindful eating is defined as eating with a purpose and awareness – it’s about slowing down and being present as you eat. Try the following mindful eating strategies this holiday season.
- Tune into your body’s needs. Before you eat, ask yourself am I hungry, really? Determine what is triggering your desire to eat. We may reach for food because it is in front of us, its dinner time, or due to emotions such as stress. If you are hungry eat. If you are not as hungry as you thought, serve a smaller plate. If you find that your desire to eat is influenced by emotions, find remedies that will address the actual need. For example, when stressed, take deep breaths and go for a walk to relax. It is more effective to address the emotion you feel than using food, as it will only provide a temporary fix. Being conscious of what you need will help you determine what and how much to eat.
- Be aware of how much you are eating. Have you ever noticed when eating with others, you want to get more to eat because someone else picked up something that looks appetizing or maybe it’s because you just want to fill up your entire plate? These are two examples of mindless eating. To avoid this, pause and reconnect with your body halfway through your meal to determine if you are full. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to receive signals of satiety or feeling full. Take your time and don’t feel obligated to leave your plate clean.
- Savor the food you love. If you love it, eat it. Enjoy the apple pie, egg nog or whatever your favorite dish is. There is no guilt with mindful eating. The difference is when you eat slow down and savor the texture, flavor, and aroma of the food. Notice how your body responds to the food in front of you. Engage all your senses and take time to savor your food so that you finish your meal feeling satisfied.
- Be fully present when enjoying your meal. Put your cell phone aside and sit at a table. Eat slowly and use the first few bites to set the pace of your eating. When eating with others, it is challenging to fully focus on what we’re eating and drinking – research shows we tend to eat more when eating in groups and surrounded by food. To address this come up with a plan such as putting your fork down between bites and during conversation.
- Practice gratitude. Compliment the chef on the tasty meal and thank the host for having you over for the evening. Gratitude leaves you feeling happier and is good for your mental health.
Start practicing these mindful strategies so you are ready to go and prepared for holiday season. Try eating one meal a day mindfully every day and as you practice it will become second nature, taking less effort than it did the first time. Tis’ the season!
~Ivy Mumo, RD