Mindful Eating

By Aparna Mele

Easy tips for healthy holiday eating

With the holidays approaching, we are forever surrounded by food and the ever-present temptations of rich meals and indulgent portions.  With so much accessibility to eating, how do you prevent that unpleasant holiday weight gain?  The answer is MINDFUL EATING. Mindful eating is defined as the practice of being mentally present and aware, while you consume a snack or meal, and allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation.   By respecting your own inner wisdom and using your senses when choosing to eat, you can pick foods that are both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.  By acknowledging your responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment, you can become more aware of physical hunger and satiety cues that tell you when to start and stop eating, and ultimately change your relationship with food.

Try these tips to eat wisely this holiday season:

Hone your hunger radar

In the midst of the holiday whirl, when eating becomes more of a way to celebrate and connect regardless of your actual appetite, don’t eat on autopilot! Instead, take time to assess your hunger level before loading up your plate.  Let your hunger consciousness inform what you decide to eat, as well as how much.

Slow down and savor

Eating calmly and without distractions (newspaper, TV, phone, computer) makes you more aware of the food in front of you.  Also, try to sit down and take time to appreciate the meal in fornt o fyou. Notices its colors and the blends of flavors. By giving the meal the attention it deserves, you can actually enjoy what you are putting in your mouth.

Chew well

Chew your food well, as chewing stimulates the digestive process.  The saliva generated by careful chewing releases chemicals that break down food and help the body more effectively absorb nutrients.

Stop when you are full

It’s not enough to know how hungry you are before you start to eat. It is essential that you continuously check in during the meal to determine when you have had enough to eat. A great time to pause is when you are halfway through your plate. With this kind of intuitive eating, you may find you are not as hungry as you thought you were or the food has lost its appeal. Instead of dutifully finishing your plate, give yourself permission to eat as much as you want—but no more. If you’re eating because you love the taste but are, in fact, no longer hungry, reassure yourself this is not the last time you will be able to experience that particular flavor. Also, remind yourself that you do not have to overeat to avoid wasting food.  Just pack it up to enjoy again later!

Express your gratitude

Eating is a full senses experience. Be present for all of it and enjoy it using all your senses. Then take a few minutes to reflect on the path that was taken to bring the food to your plate: the farmers who grew the food, the jobs that enable you to purchase the food, the cook who prepared it, the people who helped set the table and serve it. Feeling and expressing gratitude makes you feel fuller on a far deeper level. It helps you get in touch with the happiness surrounding your meal. Eating a good meal when you are hungry, knowing when to stop and being grateful for having enough is the secret to true contentment.

Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season. But this holiday, let’s strive to be overjoyed, not overstuffed!

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