The holidays are a wonderful feast of delicious and indulgent meals. It's a beautiful time to share a love of food and culture with friends and family. The holidays can also feel overwhelming especially if you're working on making healthier food choices that fit your needs and health goals. This can cause frustration, guilt and shame as we lose control over what we eat. But there are ways to support you during the holidays so you can still fully enjoy it without any guilt.
Practicing mindful eating can support and guide in making the best food choices for yourself. The purpose of mindful eating is to become more in tune with your body so you can make intentional food choices based on your needs, wants and the right amount of balance between the two. Mindful eating puts the focus back on your experience; eating in a present, thoughtful way to promote a balanced and nourishing way of eating.
This way of eating with intention and awareness requires you to pay attention to what you're eating: taste, texture and smell of each bite of food before moving on to the next. It also involves paying attention to your body and mind: hunger and satiety cues, how you feel after (bloated, tired etc) and how it affects your mood.
Slow down & start chewing
So many of us rush through our meals and eat on the go, which can cause health issues such as digestive disorders and over-eating. When eating mindfully, it’s important to slow down the pace of your eating and thoroughly chew your food. When we don't, we aren't present and we're left with poorly digested food.
Take a pause or a deep breath between bites, then full chew and put your fork down until the next bite. This also promotes the sensation of satiety.
Don't forget to breathe
Before beginning your meal take a deep breath, it will significantly increase your mindfulness and it activates the parasympathetic nervous system; letting your body know you're in a relaxed state which helps improve digestion.
Simply taking a breath helps you be more present while eating and become more in tune with your body's cues.
Build a balanced plate
Having an intention about what you're putting on your plate is a form of mindful eating. We should aim to have a nutritionally balanced plate containing protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, non-starchy carbohydrates and fiber. By doing this you will more satisfied and energised after a meal and reduce cravings.
Tune into your hunger and satiety cues
In order to practice mindful eating, we need to listen to our bodies. Take a pause before eating to check in with how you're feeling - how hungry are you? are you calm or stressed? Then after your meal, do you feel full?
Listening to hunger and satiety allows you to be more mindful of portion sizes and avoid eating mindlessly. This way you will enjoy your food fully and feel vibrant after a meal rather than lethargic and fatigued.
Enjoy your food
Eating for nourishment is just as important as eating foods that you love just for the flavour, tradition and enjoyment. Being mindful allows you to enjoy yourself and prioritise both nourishment and enjoyment with your eating. When you aren't mindful with your food choices, you’re more likely to overeat, eat when you’re not even hungry, or eat foods that you don’t even really want.
Eating in a mindful balanced way is a way of life that allows us to have a healthy relationship with food. One where we can enjoy eating what we desire in a way that makes us feel our best. Mindful eating helps us find a balance, especially during the holiday season. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, take a pause, breathe and check in.