Stay Healthy this Holiday Season!

Date: 12/10/2012

Paula Ryan

No, I will not ask you to make grandma take the cream out of her famous mashed potatoes. Nor will I ask you to eat diet jello instead of your mom’s homemade pie. What I will ask of you, however, is just as challenging.

This holiday season, I want you to practice Mindful Eating.

Mindful Eating is not a diet.  Mindful Eating is a style of interacting with food. It renovates your relationship with food and with eating, which in turn improves health, body image, and self-esteem.

By practicing Mindful Eating, you learn to relate differently to the process of eating. You learn to become aware of hunger and satiety indicators so you can make knowledgeable choices at the beginning and end of meals or snacks.

You learn to recognize why you eat when you aren’t hungry. Are you eating because you are physically hungry or are you eating because you are frustrated, sad, irritated, bored, anxious, angry, or insecure?

You learn what types of emotions, foods, or social situations trigger mindLESS eating, eating without thinking about eating.

You learn to enjoy food’s quality, not quantity, while appreciating all the nourishment that the food has to offer. You feel pleasure from learning to appreciate and truly experience food.

Mindful Eating allows you to focus on the present moment of eating which leads to a deeply satisfying relationship. You won’t feel starved or restricted when practicing mindful eating. You will feel satisfied and at peace with food.

Several studies show that Mindful Eating aids in weight loss, leads to healthier eating and healthier weights, decreases episodes of binge eating, improves mood, leads to healthier lab profiles, and leads to healthier relationships with food.

You can start practicing Mindful Eating next time you have a meal or a snack. And here’s how:

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  1. Minimize distractions. Pick a time of day and a meal that you are least likely to experience interruptions. Turn off the television, cell phone, computer, and anything else that is likely to disrupt your experience.
  2. Sit at a dining room or kitchen table. With your food in front of you, take a few deep breaths, slow down, and relax. Be in the moment.
  3. Take a look at the food in front of you. What is it that you enjoy about this food? The smell? The way it looks? The taste you are anticipating?
  4. Check in with your Hunger Scale. How hungry are you?
  5. Now it’s time to eat. Follow the Bite Rules:
    1. 1st Bite: Savor the flavor. Smell the food. Chew several times.
    2. 2nd Bite: Explore the texture of the food. Chew several times.
    3. 3rd Bite: Take your time before your third bite. Discover what pleases and satisfies you about this food and enjoy those qualities during your third bite. Chew several times.
    4. 4th Bite: Savor. Enjoy. Contemplate. Slow down. Relax
    5. 5th Bite: Are you satisfied or do you need more? Check in with your Hunger Scale. If you are still hungry, repeat the Bite Rules. If you are feeling satisfied, save the rest for later.
  6. The number one goal is to become AWARE while you are eating. Be aware of everything that the food you are eating has to offer. Don’t just eat to eat.

Think back to your last few meals. Do you eat to nourish yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically? Or do you gulp down whatever you can in the few short minutes you have? For most, it is the latter. As we gulp down food in our spare seconds throughout the day, we lose track of how we feel while we are eating; we even lose track of why we are eating. Are we hungry? Are we tired? Are we bored? Are we stressed?

Take time to be in the moment while you are eating. Slow down. Listen to what your body is telling you in terms of hunger and satisfaction. Mindful Eating leads to greater satisfaction from less food. Remember, you can always save the rest for later!

Mindful Eating is especially important over the Holidays when sweets and treats are in abundant supply. Practice Mindful Eating, be in the moment, and check in with your Hunger Scale. It’s perfectly fine to eat what you enjoy but ask yourself the following questions before you reach for the second piece of pie. Are you eating to nourish yourself? Are you really hungry? Or are you eating to satisfy some other need?

You can find out more about Mindful Eating at The Center for Mindful Eating website or on my website Healthiest Regards.