With fall in full swing and Thanksgiving just a few days away, many of us are faced with lots of opportunities to eat. Though the many celebrations and festivities of the season can be a great time to catch up with family and friends, these might also tempt us to overindulge. The gatherings and special events that come with holidays present us with many opportunities to enjoy foods we may not regularly eat. With some advanced planning and thought, we might prevent the special gatherings of the season from negatively impacting our health or well-being.
One of the most effective tactics you can do to help keep the festivities from creeping up on you is to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating , or paying attention to our food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment, is an approach to food that focuses on individuals’ sensual awareness of the food and their experience of the food. It has little to do with calories, carbohydrates, fat, or protein. The purpose of mindful eating is not to lose weight, although it is highly likely that those who adopt this style of eating will lose weight. The intention is to help individuals savor the moment and the food and encourage their full presence for the eating experience.
Use these tips from the Harvard Medical School to help you be more mindful as you celebrate the holidays and in your everyday life:
1. Begin with knowing what is on the menu (or if planning a celebration at home, begin with your shopping list). Consider the health value of every item then plan what to put on your plate, or on your shopping list. Stick to your plan to avoid impulse eating or buying . Fill most of your plate or cart with foods from the produce section and take less foods from the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.
2. Come to the table with an appetite— but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food. You could eat a healthy snack on your way to the grocery store or a party.
3. Start with a small portion. It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.
4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.
5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.
6. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.
7. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.
8. Eat slowly. If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before chatting with other guests.
Eating mindfully can help you learn:
- To eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
- To really taste food and enjoy the taste of healthy food.
- To eat the foods that best affect your mood and energy throughout the day.
- What foods keep your body going at its best for work, exercise, and play.
So, as you celebrate with your family and friends, don’t forget to be mindful, not just of what you eat, but also about the time you have with those who mean the most to you. Use this simple check list to help you practice before you are faced with a big feast. The holidays are a wonderful time and by being more mindful overall, you can reduce your stress and increase your enjoyment of this special time.