During this time of holiday parties, luncheons, gifts of food and leftovers, mindful eating could be your gift to self. The basic premise is to slow down and tune into all aspects of your eating. This includes an accepting and compassionate stance regarding your attitudes toward eating and your body, choice of foods, portion sizes, sensory experiences and the actual mechanics of eating.
These tips stand alone, but you can combine them with mindfulness meditation for maximum effect.
• Eat when you're hungry, not because you're bored or emotional. Ask yourself the question, Why do I want to eat this? Only eat it if you're hungry. If you're bored, do something interesting. If you think eating is interesting you probably need some new hobbies. If you're sad or mad, figure out how to address those feelings in ways other than eating.
• Eat what you need. When you're contemplating food, ask, Is this something good for me to eat right now? If you're hungry but you have doubts about the cookies, ask, What food would be better for me? Figure out the right food for you at that moment. Be ruthless and you'll find you know what you need.
• Savor your food. This means chewing slowly, really tasting the food and enjoying each bite. Never put a second bite in your mouth until you've finished the first bite completely. Ditto, drinking while eating; finish the bite before washing it down. Eat one peanut, piece of candy or chip and savor it before eating the next.
• Eat slowly and stop when full. Eating slowly allows you more of an opportunity to notice when you're full. Put your utensil down between bites. When you do start to feel a slight feeling of fullness, it's a great time to stop eating. You have to take some time to tune into this but you don't have to judge it.
• Strive for quality, not quantity. Okay, you want a piece of that Godiva. One piece is enough to experience the great taste. By the second piece, it's not as delicious. Stick to one. At the family style meal, a few bites of those heavenly cheese grits is probably enough. With cake, take a very small piece. Sample small amounts and enjoy the pleasure without the pain.
• Re-gift problem items. People love to give the gift of food. No matter how mindful you are, if you know you can't have just one, give it away. Save money and calories. Give it to the friend with the genetically low cholesterol and body fat.
• Make small changes. Put a little less sweetener or milk in your coffee, give up the roll with dinner or perhaps have one glass of wine instead of two. You will hardly notice these things but, if you can mindfully make these choices, they'll give you some calorie credits to get through the holidays. You can keep up these changes later for lifelong healthier eating.
• Plan for difficult situations. Before you go to the party or dinner, consider what you will be encountering and how you would like to handle it. Think about how your body feels and what your body needs. Notice any other feelings that might come up. Decide how much you want to eat and drink, and follow your plan. If you go with someone, telling them your plan helps you commit.
• Stop judging. If you have a less than mindful day, don't judge it, simply start over the next day. Don't just blow off the rest of the holiday season. It's not worth all the effort it will take to recover. Notice your successes, savor them and they will inspire you.
Challenge yourself to be more mindful about your choices, and less judgmental about your behavior and your body's needs. This is an opportunity to make changes to your eating and wellness plans. It's almost time for those New Year's resolutions. Why not get an early start?