Written by Jondell Lafont, LPC-Intern
Mindful eating is an approach that involves bringing your full attention to what you are eating and the process of eating. It is not so much about what you eat but more about how you eat. It is not a diet, nor is it a strict set of rules. Mindful eating involves listening to your body to determine what, when, and how much to eat. It is exploring your food with each of your 5 senses. It is not eating while distracted by external events (e.g. television) or internal events (e.g. distressing thoughts or emotions) but instead eating with full awareness. It is examining all of the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that come up around food and food related behaviors, such as eating and drinking. Eating mindfully promotes a greater sense of awareness in your relationship with food and can help to reawaken your joy and satisfaction in relation to food and eating.
Holidays can be a time when intense emotions are triggered. They may be a time of joy, happiness, and pleasure, yet they may also be a time filled with stress. Many of the holiday events we engage in can throw off our usual eating patterns and make it easy for us to neglect our body’s internal hunger and fullness cues. We may attempt to start a new diet during the holidays or decide to overindulge in our favorite holiday treats. However, we have a 3rd choice. We can decide to eat mindfully during the holidays.
These ten steps will help you to eat more mindfully during the holidays.
1. Get comfortable and remove distractions. This may mean finding a place that you can sit to eat a meal, rather than standing and talking, while mindlessly eating holiday treats.
2. Take a moment to look at all of the different foods being offered. Explore the food with your senses. What looks appealing? What smells appealing?
3. Rate your physical hunger on a scale of 1-10. How hungry are you? Also, think about what your body is hungry for and how much.
4. Don’t forget to breathe! Looking at all of the food may be overwhelming, so take a moment to breathe and explore what thoughts and emotions are coming up for you. Separate what your body is saying (hunger/fullness cues) from the thoughts and emotions you are having.
5. Mindfully select and plate your food. Again, check in with your body about what and how much it wants and needs.
6. Take a deep breath before eating to get centered.
7. Eat slowly. Take one bite, close your eyes, and savor the morsel of food in your mouth. Make note of the flavors, textures, and smells. You might try chewing longer than you normally do to fully experience the process of eating.
8. Note any impulses you have to rush through this so that you can go on to the next bite. Let the impulses remind you that you already have something in your mouth so you do not need to rush on to the next bite to have a complete experience of eating.
9. When you swallow, be aware of that process as well. Check in with yourself. Did the food taste the same as when you’ve had it before? How satisfied are you? Do you want to keep eating this food? What do you want to eat next?
10. Check in with yourself throughout the meal to assess your hunger and fullness levels. When you are feeling satisfied and full, stop eating.
Mindful eating is helpful in slowing down the process of eating. When you eat more slowly, you truly experience the food with all of your senses, leaving you feeling more satisfied. One of the biggest points to remember during the holidays (and every day, really!) is to only eat when you are physically hungry and to stop when you are physically full. You may go to multiple holiday parties and be offered a copious amount of food. Make sure you are checking in with yourself before eating. If you are not physically hungry, take some food to go to eat later when you are hungry. Practice mindful eating before the holiday party starts. Start today. It’s never too early to begin your journey to a healthier and more satisfying relationship with food.