During the holiday season, many family gatherings revolve around food. Thanksgiving turkey, holiday ham, fruitcake and kugel, eggnog and cider – the opportunities to overindulge are everywhere. Many people struggle with overeating, but there are a few ways to incorporate mindfulness into your meals that can help avoid the cycle of overindulgence. Mindfulness is a practice rooted in staying aware of your present experience by focusing on current feelings and sensations. Here are some ways to incorporate mindfulness into your eating to avoid overeating (and the discomfort and guilt that can come with it).
1) Avoid distraction. For many people, food becomes a part of multitasking. As a society we value optimizing our time, whether you are grabbing fast food on a long drive, having lunch at your desk at work, or snacking while catching up on your favorite show. When you divide your attention between food and another activity, you’re more likely to ignore the signals that tell you you’re full.
2) Be intentional. Mindful eating means being aware of your senses and thoughts. Take the time to taste, smell, chew, and swallow your food. Think about what you’re eating and how the blueberries in your slice of pie grew in the sun then were carefully harvested, picked out at the store, and lovingly baked into the delicious dessert you are intentionally enjoying.
3) Take your time. “Eat when hungry, stop when full” is far easier said than done. Your brain takes about 20 minutes to catch up to your stomach’s signals of satiety. Eating slowly and intentionally will not only help you enjoy your meal but also increase awareness of becoming full before you overeat.
4) Choose to eat. Mindfulness while eating means thinking about why you are eating – are you anxious or bored? Take a moment to consider your present state of mind and your body’s signals to make sure you aren’t eating to avoid a problem, cover up a feeling, or comfort a negative thought.
5) Let go of guilt. The holiday season is a time of celebration and generosity. Food brings people together and often represents the love we have for each other. Allowing yourself to enjoy the experience of food is a part of mindful eating. Food can be both physical and emotional nourishment, and if you find yourself uncomfortably full, take a walk, start a conversation with a friend, scrub some dishes – but let the guilt go. No one is perfect, and mindful eating takes practice.
Happy holidays, and happy (mindful) eating!
–by Catherine Tourangeau