If the scent of pumpkin pie, turkey and stuffing roasting in the oven and other holiday treats trigger feelings of both delight and dread, you’re not alone. Anxiety about eating at social gatherings during the holiday season can dampen the spirits for celebrating with friends and family. Rather than feeling self-conscious and stressed, the following mindful eating tips offer ways to help you take charge and enjoy social events during the holiday season.
- Arriving at a party on an empty stomach sets you up for making impulsive food choices. With the best of intentions, many people restrict their food intake prior to an event in order to feel less guilty about eating whatever they want at the party.
- Allowing ourselves to become overly hungry leaves us at risk for wanting to eat everything in sight, and often leads to overeating and even bingeing. This may be how the expression, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach” originated. Actually, the stomach is only about the size of your fist, so eating an amount larger than one or two fistfuls of food at a time can end up adding inches to your waistline.
- Drinking alcohol, especially on an empty stomach, lowers inhibitions and heightens the risk of consuming more food than our body needs. Excess calories are stored as fat. It’s easy to overlook the high calorie content of many alcoholic drinks.
- Eating before you become ravenously hungry helps prevent the tendency to gobble down food quickly, without even really tasting it. When you’re not starving you can make more mindful decisions about what and how much to eat.
- The goal is to enjoy smaller amounts of favorite foods and stop when satisfied or comfortably full. Eating past this point, to chase the flavor or because you don’t know when you’ll have these foods again, usually results in emotional and physical discomfort shortly afterwards. Stopping before you become uncomfortable allows you to feel energized instead of bloated, lethargic and unhappy with yourself.
- Before putting any food on your plate, check out everything that’s available to eat. Then put small amounts of the items that look best on your plate.
- If possible, find a place to sit down out of sight of the rest of the food and taste each of the items on your plate. Decide whether or not you’re enjoying each bite enough to want more. If something isn’t satisfying, don’t continue eating it just because it’s there. You can always get more of the foods you enjoy most if you’re still physically hungry or you can decide to save room for dessert.
- Be selective, like a wine connoisseur. Flavor usually loses its intensity after the first three or four bites. Pay attention to when the flavor begins to lessen. Rather than continuing to eat mindlessly, stop and put food away for later, when you can fully enjoy it again. Or if necessary, once comfortably full, throw away what you haven’t finished rather than have it end up as unwanted pounds.
- Negative thoughts like “I’ve blown it…I might as well eat more,” are a common trigger for overeating. This is known as the “Abstinence Violation Effect.” Rigid rules and food restrictions can cause people to give up in frustration. Research indicates that when foods are no longer forbidden, it eliminates feelings of deprivation, a common trigger for overeating and bingeing.
Mindful eating focuses on savoring quality vs. quantity, a powerful tool in helping people learn how to enjoy food more, while eating less.
So this year, when you face a spread of delicious holiday food, use these mindful eating tips to make healthy choices so you can eat, drink and be merry!
Dr. VanNest is a facilitator for the Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training program (MB-EAT), a structured, non-dieting approach to permanent weight loss. The effectiveness of MB-EAT in reducing compulsive overeating and bingeing, in addition to reducing weight has been supported by research conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Please contact Dr. VanNest at 973-257-9000 x 204 for further information.