Holidays are both fun and stressful – fun because there’s nothing like enjoying good food, good friends, and good stories for days on end; stressful because planning the activities and cooking the meals can really become burdensome as the days go by. There’s also the fact that it’s so easy to eat everything on the table, whether you’re having friends over at home or dining out on Thanksgiving at P.F. Chang’s. The kilos just creep in and before you know it, you’ve gained 10 kilos in three months!
Fortunately, there’s a way to enjoy the great holiday food and keep within your healthy weight – it’s called mindful eating. Mindfulness refers to the awareness of yourself while you’re engaged in an activity and a sense of being in the moment, a conscious decision to enjoy the present. As such, mindful eating refers to the full enjoyment of the food, from its appearance to its feel in your mouth, an awareness that contributes to eating with restraint and moderation.
Don’t worry as mindful eating doesn’t require meditation and the like, neither counting calories nor number of mouthfuls eaten. Here are easy yet effective tips to start on mindful eating, whether it’s an everyday meal or a holiday feast.
Reflect on Your Mental State
Your state of mind – or mood, if you will – will affect the types of food you will eat, how much you will eat, and how you will eat it. You may, for example, eat more pasta and desserts because you feel down in the dumps – carbs and sugar have an uplifting effect although it only lasts for a few hours (i.e., sugar rush). You may, on the other hand, be more mindful of the types and portions of food you eat when you’re in a happy mood.
So before you even start eating, you should take a moment to reflect on your current mood. Do you feel rushed, stressed or sad? Do you feel at ease, happy, or positive? If you feel the former, you should consider taking a minute to calm down, smile and be in more positive mood so that you’re more mindful before you sit down to eat.
Sit Down to Eat
We live in a society where everything seems rushed or on the rush so we’re likely to eat on the go, especially during lunch hours. But while there are merits to eating, say, Chinese takeout from the box while walking from one meeting to the next, there are demerits, too.
You will not fully appreciate your food – its appetizing appearance, complex flavors, and great mouth-feel – when you’re multitasking, not to mention that you’re likely to choose unhealthy food or to overeat. You should then sit down to eat, even when it’s just for a 15- minute lunch. You can think of it as a time to recharge your mind and body for the next tasks ahead.
Focus on the Food
We have too many distractions when we eat and these can become our downfall, so to speak, in terms of mindful and healthy eating during the holidays when food seems more abundant. When you’re eating, you should focus on the food for, indeed, it’s the reason for the activity!
You must then turn off the television and set aside your smartphone, tablet and other devices with a screen. You will not only be able to appreciate your food but, more importantly, you will be more aware of what you’re eating and how much you’re eating of it. You don’t want to be the person who eats microwaveable dinners in front of the television, eats everything on the plate plus dessert, and then wonder where the food has gone – and along with the food, the trim waistline.
Eat Your Food in Silence
But not all the time because good food, after all, is more enjoyable when it’s shared with good family and friends. Once in a while, nonetheless, you should eat your meals in silence; breakfast is a great time since you will have time to gather your thoughts, plan your day, and motivate yourself without the distraction of other people’s chatter.
In a party, you may want to get a small snack and a glass of wine, find a quiet spot in the garden, and appreciate the silence and stars. This way, you will also be mindful of your food and you can return to the party with a recharged mind and body, especially when it comes to making small talk.
These tips may sound ridiculous considering that the holidays with all its fun, food and feasts are considered as cheat days. But think about it: You don’t have to work so hard at your post-holidays workouts because you didn’t overindulge in the first place! Besides, you enjoyed the people and activities more because you weren’t so taken by the thought of stuffing yourself silly.