Life

Seasons Eatings Making Mindful Eating a Part of Your Holidays

As we ramp up for the holiday season, many people feel excited and blessed as they look forward to celebrating special times with family and friends. Others, however, feel pressured and stressed. For them, the holidays are an endless array of “Season’s Eatings” – one party after another, all of them filled with palate-pleasing temptations.

 

But don’t despair. Faced with so many choices, you can make your holiday experience more positive and enjoyable by taking a mindful approach to what – and how much – you consume. As part of Baptist Health Community Health’s four-part series of Mindful Eating programs, I’m here to help you make smarter decisions as you navigate the holiday buffet table this year.

What is mindful eating, exactly?

Mindful eating is simply the practice of being present during any eating moment, whether it’s a meal, a snack or one of those “just a bite” moments. It is a powerful, judgement-free tool that helps create awareness not just of the foods you eat but also provides insight into your eating habits. When practicing mindful eating, attention is given to both internal and external cues, and your response to those cues.

What is mindful eating NOT?

Mindful eating is not a diet, therefore there are no rigid rules or an “all or nothing” mindset. A mindful eater wouldn’t tell themself, “I can’t eat this because I’m on a diet to lose weight.” Rather, practicing mindful eating offers flexibility around food choices.

Before eating anything, it’s helpful to check in with yourself. How hungry do you feel? Why do you want to eat? What do you want to eat? How much do you want to eat? When do you want to eat? Also pay attention to how you’re eating. Are you distracted or are you present?

Practicing mindful eating

There are many different approaches to practicing mindful eating. One includes using as many of your five senses as possible during an eating experience. We often jump right to taste when it comes to evaluating the food we’re eating, but what about your other senses like sight and smell? Have you wondered why your mouth waters before you even take your first bite?

Slowing down to savor every moment, every bite, is a simple and effective way to become a mindful eater, and it starts with identifying the qualities that make it enjoyable for you (or not). Here are a few ideas on how to engage all of your senses when you eat:

• See the food: How does it appear? What is the presentation like? Does it look appealing?

• Smell the food: What is the predominant aroma? Does the smell make you hungry or is it a turn-off? Are you able to identify any other ingredients in the dish by smell?

• Hear the food: What does it sound like as it’s being cooked (i.e., sizzling, bubbling)? How does it sound when you eat it (i.e., the crunch of biting into an apple)?

• Feel the food: Think about its texture – is it moist, dry, mushy, crispy, crunchy or chewy? Is it hot, cold, room temperature or warm?

• Taste the food: Is it sweet, salty, sour, bitter or umami (savory)? What is the predominant flavor? Can you identify any other ingredients by taste?

Sticking to a plan

Another important part of practicing mindful eating during the holidays includes having a plan you can stick to when attending office parties, family dinners, and other holiday events. Here are some tips that will help you navigate through the celebrations:

First, survey all the food – from appetizers, or boquitas, to main dishes, side dishes and desserts – and mentally classify the foods into three categories:

  • Savor – These are the foods you’ve been most looking forward to enjoying and probably the ones you don’t usually eat at other times of the year.
  • Sample – These are foods you like, but you don’t feel the need for a full serving and would be satisfied with a couple of bites.
  • Skip – Whether you like or dislike these foods, you feel you don’t need to eat them at this particular time.

Second, socialize away from food to avoid mindless grazing. Instead, serve yourself the desired food and step away from being within arm’s reach of the food. If you want to eat more of something, you will mindfully walk over to serve yourself again.

Remember that mindful eating is not about following all these tips precisely. Be kind and compassionate to yourself as you practice eating mindfully during the holidays. It’s a practice that requires…practice!

You can find more information about mindful eating and the many other Community Health programs available from Baptist Health here. Coming up next in our Mindful Eating series: “Preparing for Thanksgiving – Strategies for Approaching Holiday Eating” on Wednesday, Nov. 16th followed by “Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving” on Wednesday, Nov. 30th.

Lucette Talamas, MS RD LDN, a registered dietitian with Community Health at Baptist Health, provides practical nutrition information to promote healthy lifestyles that can help prevent and manage chronic diseases. Her expert tips and advice have appeared in print and broadcast media.

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