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Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

As the Holidays approach I thought it would be timely to talk about mindful eating and some strategies for eating healthy and not overindulging. The average American gains 1 and a half pounds during the holidays. It does not seem like much but the more lasting impact is that the weight tends to add up year after year and the majority don’t lose it. 

Here are some good tips for the holidays:

  1.  Think ahead to big meals or events and save some of your calories for the day/week of that event. 
  2.  It can also be helpful to not stay near the food during an event as it is more tempting to overindulge. 
  3.  If you want to go back for seconds pause for 10 minutes and see if you are still hungry. 
  4.  You can also eat a light healthy meal before you go to an event so you can have a few treats, but aren’t eating your whole meal there. 
  5.  You can also chew gum or eat a mint to help you stay occupied and prevent you from wanting to eat. 
  6. Another strategy is to drink water or sparkling water with lime between cocktails so you don’t drink as much. 
  7. It is also a good time of year to increase your activity; dance at events you are at and walk as much as you can. 

Mindful eating is another strategy that can be helpful during the holidays and throughout the year. Mindful eating is slowing down while you are eating and paying attention to the process of eating and your experience without judgment. This can help you identify why you are eating; is it because you are hungry?  because you are sad?, bored?, etc. It is helpful in working towards eating only when you are hungry and stopping when your body is full. In many of our lives we have been trained and have trained ourselves to eat for emotional reasons, eat until our plate is completely empty even if we are full, or to eat just because it’s meal time.  These practices and others can lead to overeating. Mindful eating helps us change our habits and enjoy the whole process of eating more. 

Mindful eating begins with the preparation of food.  As you cook, you are preparing your body to receive nourishment. When you sit down to eat, put away electronics. Take a couple deep breaths before starting to eat, this helps your parasympathetic nervous system take over. This system helps your body rest and digest your food. Express gratitude for the food. It can be helpful to have a meal time ritual, whether that consists of music you listen to or lighting candles, etc. Be still and enjoy the food and have it be a time of connecting with yourself if you are eating alone or with others.

Be aware of all of your senses and how they are responding to the food. What do you see? Is the food rich in color? Is it all mixed together or is it separate? What do you smell?  Does it smell like garlic or what other spices do you smell? What do you taste? Is it sweet, spicy, savory? What do you feel? How does the food feel in your mouth or in your hands? What do you hear?  Can you hear the food sizzling? Can you hear yourself chewing it? 

Then listen to your body. When it feels satisfied stop eating. Lots of sugar and processed foods can affect your body’s ability to identify when it is full. Eating whole nutrient dense foods is most beneficial for your body. 

Food is such a significant part of our Holiday traditions. I hope this blog can help you remember to slow down and enjoy the food. To mindfully take it in and relish it. As you listen to your body you can enjoy food but also not overindulge.