With the Holidays quickly approaching, many emotions are unfolding. Excitement to finally see family and friends we haven’t seen in over 2 years or gratefulness to spend some quality time with the ones we love. Maybe angst to travel or stress that every aspect of the Holidays puts on us. Our food choices should not be an added stress to the Holidays. There is one very helpful and super important technique we can use to ensure we do not overindulge and helps create more space for enjoyment and less space for stress.
This technique is free, can be experienced on your own or with others and is simple to use. This technique is mindfulness. The Center of Mindful Eating describes mindfulness as “the capacity to bring full attention and awareness to one’s experience, in the moment, without judgment. Mindful Eating brings mindfulness to food choice and the experience of eating. Mindful eating helps us become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations related to eating, reconnecting us with our innate inner wisdom about hunger and satiety.”
Mindfulness and mindful eating are both a journey. They must be practiced and worked upon. When starting, we need to be reminded. Reminders can come in the form of practicing with others or it can be a simple, friendly reminder on your phone (maybe randomly during the day or maybe during hours of meals if you have a routine schedule). My biggest recommendation when it comes to mindful eating, is to sit down, slow yourself down, and enjoy. Over the Holidays, this may come easier or may be more difficult depending on your situation. Either way, slow down and be grateful for everything life has handed you. Deep breaths help slow down the mind, body and soul. It helps connect us to the present moment; therefore, leading us to mindfulness and a start to mindful eating.
The simplest way to practice mindful eating are through the 5 S’s created by Dr. Susan Albers:
1) SIT DOWN: Have a seat! Avoid nibbling in front of the refrigerator or snacking in your car. Put food on a plate. You will enjoy food more and eat less when you give eating your full attention. “Only eat off your feet.”
2) SLOWLY CHEW: Eat with your non-dominant hand (if you are right handed eat with your left). Research indicates that eating with your opposite hand can reduce how much you eat by 30%. Intentionally chew slower than the person you are eating with. “Pace, don’t race.”
3) SAVOR: Take a mindful bite. Smell. Taste. Notice and look at each spoonful. Turn off the TV and other distractions. “When you eat, just eat.”
4) SIMPLIFY: Put healthy foods in a convenient place like on the counter. Place treats out of view. Research indicates that people tend to eat what is in their immediately reach. “In sight, in mind, out of sight, out of mind.”
5) SMILE: Smiling can create a brief pause between your current bite and the next one. During that gap, ask yourself if you are just satisfied, not full. “Take a breath, to manage stress.”
During the Holidays, do not focus on what you should not be eating, focus on being thankful for what you have and what you can enjoy and do just that, enjoy. Slow down and take your time to enjoy that plate of deliciousness, that slice of pumpkin pie cheesecake or that chocolate chip cookie and when you do slow down and create a mindful space, you will find that you will not need to go back for seconds or thirds or eat every single desert on the table. You will be satisfied, full and happy!
There are a lot of resources when it comes to mindful eating but I want to provide a few websites and handouts. Practice some of these mindful eating techniques over the next few days / weeks that way you can share this practice with your loved ones during the Holidays! Be safe and I wish you the most beautiful Holiday season.
4. David M. Nourishing wisdom: a mind/body approach to nutrition and well-being. New York: Bell Tower; 1991.