From the first bite of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving to champagne toasts on New Year’s Eve, the holidays provide ample opportunities to connect with friends, families and co-workers and celebrate the season. While this can be a time of fun and festivity it can also be a time of overindulgence and regret and lead to New Year’s Resolutions. Mindfulness can help us enjoy the pleasures of the season without guilt and although not a diet may help avoid those extra holiday pounds.
Mindful eating and drinking is not about denying yourself the foods and drinks that you love or even restricting the amounts. Instead it is about savoring and experiencing food with more awareness and noticing the taste with more pleasure. Many times we eat mindlessly and find ourselves at the bottom of a pint of ice cream without ever noticing the taste because we are eating unconsciously or to numb an emotion. Eating mindlessly leads to guilt, not feeling satisfied and at times unpleasant physical symptoms. We can change this and still enjoy the foods we love without feeling deprived. While I am focusing on food primarily these same tips can be applied to drinks as well.
Tips for Eating and Drinking Mindfully
1. Become aware! The first step is to become aware of when you are consuming mindlessly. Take a day and notice how you are eating or drinking. Without judgement notice the following:
• Are you sitting down at the table and just eating or are you multitasking?
• Is the environment pleasant or stressful?
• Are you tasting what goes in your mouth with each bite or sip?
• Do you notice when you are full?
• How does your body feel?
• What are your thoughts and feelings about the food?
• Why am I eating right now?
2. Notice emotions, thoughts and physical sensations. This is the most important steps in eating and drinking mindfully. As a culture we have many thoughts and feelings about food and drinks. We label foods as good or bad or fattening or healthy and focus on these judgments as we eat. Food can bring out emotions of feeling comforted when we are sad or scared, guilt when we are eating something we “shouldn’t” and deprivation when we can’t have what we want. Alcohol can cover feelings of stress or other emotions. Noticing how our body feels is also important. Is this food or drink making my body feel good or am I swallowing it for another reason? Becoming aware of all of these factors will help us make choices that will truly be satisfying for our body and mind.
3. Make choices. With increased awareness comes the ability to make choices. Once we notice how our thoughts, emotions and body are all connected we can determine when we are eating to fill our physical hunger and when we are eating to fill emotional hunger. Eating mindfully can help quiet the mind and reduce stress.
4. Practice savoring. Mindful eating takes practice and we can start with small changes. Take one meal or even a snack and apply the tools. Sit quietly and notice the food first, take a few deep breaths and then eat one bite at a time. Notice the taste, the texture, the aroma and savor! This can be a family event as well. Practice will help us remember to savor at other times throughout the season.
So how do we apply this to the holidays? When you are standing at the buffet or at the open bar take a few breaths and check in with where you are. Having practiced eating or drinking mindfully, approach these choices with the same awareness. Enjoy the taste of each bite or sip and pay attention to what your body tells you is enough. If you find yourself eating or drinking past that point notice what thoughts and emotions are behind the overindulgence. Will more food or drinks help with what is happening or will it just numb the feelings? With this awareness you can make a conscious and mindful choice. Maybe our choice will be to do something else that will fill that need or move away from the temptations. Remember that mindfulness is a practice and you will not be able to do it all the time but give it a try and keep practicing! Happy Holidays and remember to savor!
For more information on Mindful Eating join me in January for a free workshop. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested! Mindfulness workshops start in January. Check out www.bewelllifecoaching.com for more information.