It’s November again – the smell of warm turkey with gravy, cornbread dressing and pumpkin pie fill your home. You have gobs of Butterfingers and Milky Ways leftover from Halloween that tempt you as you sit down to watch your favorite television series. December holidays and New Year’s Eve and Day are right around the corner which will bring dinner parties, work gatherings and celebrations with friends, all of which have one thing in common: food – and too much of it. You are already thinking about that cold January morning when you hop on the scale feeling regretful and guilty for overindulging which has led to a 10-pound weight gain – or more.
Wait! Before this scenario unfolds, know that you can do something to prevent this. It’s called mindful eating and has helped so many people regain control over their eating habits. Mindful eating revolves around the “why” and “how” we eat. By practicing mindful eating techniques you will learn to enjoy each bite, recognize feelings of fullness, become a food critic and ultimately avoid those extra holiday pounds.
First, each time you think about sitting down to your next meal or snack, ask yourself, “Why am I eating?” If it’s because of boredom, stress, anxiety, routine or simply because that particular food is available, put it down. If it’s because your stomach is growling or it’s been more than four or five hours since your last meal, go ahead and eat. Uncovering whether the hunger you feel is emotional or physical is one of the first steps to eating mindfully. We eat for so many reasons other than physical hunger which leads the body into storing those extra calories instead of burning them for energy.
Next, before you take your first bite, take note of your senses. How does your meal look? How does it smell? How does it feel on your fork or in your hand? Turn off the television, computer, smart phone or other distraction. Then, take one bite at a time, chewing slowly. Pay attention to how long it takes to eat the entire meal. If it’s 10 minutes or less, your body hasn’t yet had enough time to send a message to your brain telling it that you’re full. This process takes about 20 minutes. Try this technique with your next meal. You will most likely begin to recognize the feeling of fullness. The meal will also taste better and be more satisfying.
Here are a few extra tips to help you become a more mindful eater.
Become a food critic. No, not the type that bashes restaurants in online reviews, but rather a self-food critic. For example, let’s say you are standing in front of a buffet and you have two choices of potatoes – mashed potatoes with gravy or sweet potato soufflé with caramelized pecans. Ask yourself, “Which would give me the most satisfaction?” There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s all about personal preference.
Eat a nutritious snack before you head to that holiday party. I know so many people who limit themselves all day, only to overindulge in a feast that evening. Having a small handful of cashews might be just the thing to avoid overdoing it.
Celebrate what’s significant. Too many times to we look forward to attending a holiday event for the food and forget about the true meaning of the holiday and the family and friends that surround us.
You can do this! Good luck!