It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
During this time of the year, there’s a lot of wonderful goodies to indulge in: the leftover Halloween treats, the Thanksgiving meals, and all the Christmas parties we’ll be going to in the days to come.
But here’s a dilemma all of us face:
When faced with mouth-watering and scrumptious meals, mindful eating during the holidays proves to be difficult for us, and even impossible for some. In the midst of all the happy celebrations and the lively chatter, it can be easy for us to eat mindlessly. To stuff our mouths with everything that looks tasty. To tell ourselves that it’s alright to enjoy this treat for today. Then, one “cheat day” becomes two, then three, then four…
But there’s a way you can actually fully enjoy your meals these holidays—with moderation and restraint! Try out these 12 effective mindful eating strategies and you’ll surely still fit your favourite skinny jeans next year:
#1: Sit down when you eat
Don’t eat on the go; it’s difficult to keep track of how much you’re eating when you stand while eating. In fact, a recent Journal of Health Psychology study revealed that people eat 5% more when they stand and eat.
You see, standing causes a lot of distraction. When you’re standing, you may be engaged in other activities which make you less likely to notice how much food you’ve already eaten and appreciate what you had so far.
Shape.com lists down the 5 S’s of mindful eating that we can all follow: sit down, savour, slowly chew, stay in the moment with a deep breath, and smile. (Why smile? It makes you pause for a moment to decide whether you want another bite or not.)
#2: Stay away from screens
When eating, turn off the TV and don’t use your phone, tablet, or computer. Using these devices takes your attention away from the food you’re eating. And when you’re in too deep into the TV series you’re watching or the Facebook timeline you’re scrolling through, there’s a big chance you won’t even notice you’ve already finished your fourth helping. Yikes.
#3: Give thanks
Before you start eating, pause and take a moment to thank all the hard work and labour that went into your meal before it’s served in front of you.
This might not be directly related to healthy eating, but remembering the farmers, the factory workers, the chefs, the host, as well as your companions at the table makes you appreciate and enjoy the food more.
#4: Tour around the buffet
The next time you’re eating at a buffet, you might want to tour around the food tables first before you start filling your plate.
A research from Cornell University shows that the first three items are likely to make up 65% of your plate just because you see them first. If your plate is almost full with just the first three dishes and you come across a food you really like, you’ll end up having a second helping (or more) just to eat it.
Avoid overeating and practice mindful eating by looking at all the dishes served before you start filling your plate. Filling your plate means filling yourself, so be selective about the foods you’re adding in there!
Now, if you’re the one hosting the holiday buffet, you can place the healthy items in the first three spots in the line as people will be more likely to eat them.
#5: Use a smaller plate
When you pick a smaller plate, you’ll only be able to put smaller portions than the usual. Smaller plates will help you control your portions, and it’ll also make you feel as if you’ve already finished a lot of servings, consequently urging you to stop eating.
#6: Get 30 chews out of each bite
At feasts and parties, there are people who have the tendency to eat as fast as they can because they fear that they’ll “run out of the great food.”
If you’re one of those people, it’s time to change your habit and try this mindful eating strategy: Slow down your pace and enjoy the flavours in your mouth before you swallow. Some suggest chewing 30 times out of each bite. This gives you time to really enjoy the food and gives you enough time to realise whether you’re already full or not. Moreover, studies show that chewing your food more aids digestion. (Remember: the digestion process starts in the mouth.)
#7: Wait 10 minutes before taking seconds
It takes a few minutes for your body to recognise that you are full. When you eat too quickly, you tend to continue eating and stop only when you’ve become uncomfortably full. A great mindful eating strategy is to be patient and slow down.
Before you take your second and next helpings, take a 10-minute break. You can strike a conversation with your companions or drink some water. Then recheck your appetite and see if you still need more portions or not.
By following this tip and eating slowly, we keep in touch with our body’s satiety signals and we’re able to avoid feeling uneasy and nauseous after having too much food.
#8: Stay away from the food table
It’s wise to stay away from the food table or find a seat far from where it’s served. The distance will make it harder for you to mindlessly reach for food as you chat with your friends or share a laugh with your relatives.
Here’s another tip:
If you are prone to mindlessly reaching for bags of chips, put your portion on a small bowl or container then put the bag away from you. When you keep helping yourself from the bag, you lose track of how much you’ve already eaten and, later on, you won’t even realise that you’ve finished that bag all by yourself. Think of all those calories!
#9: Wear your slim-fitting pants
Whenever you attend social gatherings and parties, wear fitted clothing. Avoid baggy sweaters and joggers—since they’re loose, you’ll feel more comfortable to indulge in your second, third, and fourth servings.
On the opposite, when you’re dressed in your fitted little dress, your form-fitting long sleeves, or your skinny jeans, you become more conscious about every extra little bite you’re trying to stuff in your already satisfied tummy.
#10: Don’t clean your plate if you can’t
A lot of us grew up being taught that we shouldn’t leave the table until we’ve finished everything on our plate. But for a healthier holiday eating, remind yourself that you don’t have to clean your plate. You can pack the leftovers to go, or just leave the last few bites. In the first place, you shouldn’t get portions that you can’t handle.
#11: Bring healthy snacks with you
Wherever you go, it’s wise to have healthy snacks with you. This will help you prevent yourself from buying or helping yourself with every unhealthy snack or junk food you will see.
And never go to the grocery store hungry, as you can easily fall into the temptation of buying whatever seems delicious to you. In the same way, don’t go to a dinner or a party with an empty stomach—once you lay your eyes on the tasty meals, you’ll quickly forget about your newly-made list of “Foods to Avoid” and tell yourself the excuse: “I’m hungry, it’s okay to eat this.”
#12: Don’t stress when you indulge
Healthy eating can be a real struggle, especially for those new to it. There are delicious foods to avoid and there are tough exercises to do regularly.
During the holidays, where all your relatives seem to have a tasty dish prepared, it can be especially hard to stick to your plan. But remember, it’s alright to indulge yourself in your cravings every once in a while. The holidays should be a time to have fun with your family and friends, so don’t beat yourself up just for eating one cupcake from last night’s party.
Stressing about indulging can lead you to develop eating habits that are much worse. So relax, and enjoy the holidays, then get back to your healthy eating habits. You got this!
From us here at Cloud Employee, have a wonderful and mindful holiday!
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