Eating, Drinking and Being Mindful: 5 Tips to Help You Eat Mindfully this Holiday Season

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Yes, the holidays are upon us… as are the bowls filled with Halloween candy, bottomless cookie platters, delicious baked breads (healthy because they are pumpkin, carrot or zucchini, right?), rich creamy soups and casseroles to warm us, and festive cocktail beverages that go down effortlessly.  Such a spread would increase anyone’s waistline over time, if encountered mindlessly.  How do you plan on eating this holiday season? Giving yourself the gift of eating mindfully might be your answer.

An Ancient Practice Revisited: Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is not a new mindfulness fad, as some media sources suggest. It’s actually existed since our ancestors started eating with awareness thousands of years ago. However, lately what many experience in today’s world is mindless eating—where we consume our food and nutrients while distracted by our devices, hectic schedules, hectic minds, and each other. In our modern world we don’t “experience” eating as we multi-task or task shift, preventing our bodies and minds from being united in the same space and time, unaware of how much we’ve taken in.  As a result, we tend to overeat, and then feel bad and beyond full– and may even beat ourselves up over it– which can result in eating even more to make us feel better emotionally.  This mindless eating can turn into a cycle and affect our weight and wellness at the same time.  In 2013-2014, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention  reported the percentage of adults over 20 years of age with obesity was 37.9%, and the percentage of adults over 20 years of age considered overweight (including with obesity) was 70.7%. Is mindless eating the culprit? Perhaps it is one variable that is influencing our conditioned eating habits. The antidote to mindless eating and to fuel our minds and bodies simultaneously, with exactly what we need, is eating mindfully.

Slow Down and Gain Awareness

Thankfully, eating mindfully is gaining momentum in the west. Mindful eating is not about a certain diet that promotes certain foods over others (though healthy choices are recommended). Mindful eating encourages us to intentionally focus on the present moment internally (acknowledging the thoughts, emotions, and sensations) and externally (the environment). Mindful eating is about slowing down and bringing awareness to nourishing ourselves: with the what, why, when, where and how. When coaching or teaching about eating mindfully, we look at all areas where our appetites might arise (we call these hunger centers), acknowledging them, and then ask what do I need to nourish myself most appropriately. Check out my website at your leisure, for more information about the curriculum specifically in the Eating Mindfully class.

 

5 Mindful Eating Tips to Keep You Healthy this Holiday Season

And in the meantime, consider these five mindful eating tips, to help you nourish yourself this holiday season in a healthy way:

1)      Check in with yourself and NOTICE your hunger. Where are you hungry? What sensations, thoughts or emotions do you notice?  Sometimes we THINK we are hungry when we look at the clock and notice it’s 12pm. Or we SENSE we are hungry when we walk into the mall and smell the cinnamon bun baking. If you feel a need for connection or warmth, heart hunger is asking to be nourished. Did you know there are a total of nine hunger centers? We cover these in the Eating Mindfully class. Taking an assessment BEFORE you eat on where you are hungry can lead you to make healthier choices on how to meet your appetite needs.

2)      If you feel sensations in your stomach area or other bodily sensations that suggest food is what you need, ask yourself what kind of food do I need? Cellular hunger requests a type of food to satisfy a deficiency in a specific element that keeps our bodies going. Listen to what your body is legitimately telling you to put in your mouth, stomach and system. And then give it what it needs.

3)      Before you eat, ask yourself HOW MUCH food do I need? Stomach hunger just wants volume (as it cannot taste food) and may not need as much as you think? Remember, our bodies are pretty wise and will give us the answer if we just listen. This is especially an important question to ask when eating out at a restaurant. Generally, in today’s restaurants, one plate of food is really 2-3 servings combined. After you ask yourself how much you need, serve yourself 2/3rds of that initially, knowing you may go back for seconds.

4)      Reduce Distractions: Turn off the electronics and your monkey mind. Many people consume their food while watching TV, surfing the net, or reading their email. Try turning off the electronics and tuning into your own self. Finding a comfortable place to eat, like at a dining room table, can help reduce the mindless eating being distracted and on the go. Set the intention to be present to your food and eating experience. When your monkey mind wanders to thinking about something else, don’t criticize your mind for wandering…. that’s it’s job! Just simply and kindly bring your attention back to your meal.

5)      Pause. Before, during and after your meal. Before you begin eating, perhaps offer grace as a blessing for the food you received, acknowledging all the hands that helped get this food to you. Then take the time to savor what is before you. Take in the colors, textures, shapes and smells. During the meal, put your eating utensil down between bites, and chew your food fully (perhaps over 20 complete chews). Chewing your food more allows for efficient digestion. Also during your meal, check in to see if your appetite is satisfied. Try not to aim for fullness; it’s better to find a sweet spot where you are 2/3rds full instead of overly full.  After your meal, walk away from the table and notice how your body feels. Does it feel energetic, tired, sluggish, fatigued? Listen to your body and may your next choice for action be a healthy one based on your body’s answer.

 

Folks who eat mindfully can alter their weight, weighing 10 pounds less a year, due to simply becoming aware of how much, when, where, what and why they eat.  Eating mindfully has the ability to change eating patterns or at least question them. Once we start to question, our awareness increases. Once we are aware we step out of auto-pilot, and have a chance of changing a bad habit, in that moment. So why not arm yourself with some healthy tips this holiday season and avoid the mindless eating trap. Your mind, body and heart will be glad you did.

The next Eating Mindfully course will start in February of 2017 at the Jewish Community Center in La Jolla. Be sure to check out the registration page and sign up!  I also coach one-on-one Eating Mindfully skills—bringing in the curriculum into our co-active coaching calls. Whichever route you go, may you be mindful with nourishing yourself!



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