It’s not just what we eat, but how we eat that impacts our health. Eating is a sacred practice, a basic act of nourishment and self-love or loathing. Our relationship with food is lifelong and bringing awareness to this relationship will undoubtedly impact your well-being.
Before we go any further, know this, mindful eating has nothing to do with dieting . Instead, it is a simple act of eating with purpose, gratitude, and appreciation for each bite. It’s a way to banish the “drive-through” mentality that is all too common. I’m convinced our modern lifestyle is a huge contributing factor and eating mindlessly and emotionlessly is no way to live, let alone a healthy way to eat.
Whether to relieve stress, to avoid socializing, to feed cravings, it all comes down to not paying attention to how we eat or the emotional triggers. Holiday gatherings are one of the easiest times to forgo mindfulness.
Why is it so difficult to practice restraint during these times and what can we do to become more mindful around mealtime?
Learn to pay attention. When you feel like eating, first identify your reason. Are you hungry or is this an emotional void masquerading as hunger? The assess what your choices are (are they good for you?). According to the Mayo clinic, use the HALT method for mindful eating.
This is a quick way to recognize if you are eating based on emotional needs or physiological needs. Mindfulness comes into play when we do not realize that we are eating despite not being hungry. It also comes into play when we continue to eat after the point of fullness. Have you ever felt that way? I know that I sure have.
Pause for a moment before the appetizers, the cocktails, the meal. Take a moment to consciously choose to consume and be grateful for the abundance in your life. The practice of gratitude before a meal can start long before the canapés are served. Think about where the food has come from, the company you are in, how fortunate you are to be where you are. Before you arrive, consciously choose moderation and gratefulness.
What are your triggers? I don’t have to tell you that it’s easy to become tempted to over indulge when you’re surrounded by your trigger food. There are just some foods that you might not be able to eat mindfully! Couple that temptation with emotional situations (i.e. family stress) and you have the perfect combination of feeling like shit after your meal and in the days following.
If your brain is engaged, your will have less time to think about that second cup of eggnog. Engage in a conversation, participate in a family board game, offer to help the hostess and put that mental imagery to sleep. If there are trigger foods that you just no you can never say no to (for me, that’s potato chips) ask the host ahead of time if they’re willing to sub in a swap or even offer to bring a dish that doesn’t turn you into a cookie monster!
Take it slow and savor every bite. You’ve heard of the rule of chewing twenty times before swallowing your food. Have you ever tried it? There is a lot to be said for the benefit of this technique, it definitely forces you to take it slow and savor your bites. While I may not specifically count to twenty, when I am tuned in and take it slow, my body signals satiation much quicker.
Put the technology down and engage with those around you. Ever notice that you can eat twice as many chips when you’re sitting in front of the t.v. or scrolling your Instagram feed? Before you know it, you’ve mindlessly consumed three times the recommend serving! In a world where we are inundated with technology, eating is one place where we can have a break from it all. Put away your phone, have a conversation with those around you.
Engage in eating, engage in life. I would love to know what practices you’ve implemented to help you become more mindful around food, especially during the holidays. How do you navigate this time of year and your nourishment of body & soul?