6 tips for mindful eating during the festive season
It's December. The shops are full of celebratory food. We're stocking up on festive treats and special foods, especially this year when there have been so many other challenges to deal with - it would be churlish not to take part.
But how do we make sure that we enjoy the food we are eating, and not just mindlessly polishing off a tin of Quality Street that the kids opened? And in the run-up to Christmas, how often have you finished your lunch in front of your laptop, or grabbed a bit of toast whilst on the phone to someone? How easy was it to finish off the biscuits that were already open? This is where mindful eating comes in.
Mindful eating is about being aware of what we are doing and actively participating in making those choices.
Research shows that being mindful of what we put in our mouths not only stops us from accidentally over-consuming, with the problems that that entails but also allows us to really enjoy the process and take full advantage of the flavours and experiences of the food we choose to eat.
Mindful eating allows us to be in tune with our hunger, to sense our levels of fullness, and to feel satisfied with what we are consuming.
Six tips for mindful eating
But how do you start with mindful eating? Well, here are my six top tips for incorporating mindful eating into your daily life:
1. Have a list
By preparing in advance what we need, this will help stop any impulse purchases at the shop. We know what we need and what we are looking for, so armed with our shopping list we can stick to this.
Being aware of the food choices we are making and what we are bringing home is an excellent start to the process. This also ensures that what we reach for at home is what we want to eat.
2. Avoid extreme hunger
It's good to be hungry when sitting down to eat a meal, but not so much so that we're compelled to make the wrong choices as we're in a massive hurry and feeling famished. Being ravenously hungry and going past the point of when we should have eaten may make us panic and reach for foods that we wouldn't normally go for purely out of convenience.
3. Make a conscious decision to eat
By planning our meals in advance this allows us to know when we are eating and what we will be eating. This helps us avoid the pitfall of ravenous hunger, but also helps us avoid absent-mindedly picking as we don't know what to eat.
Particularly at this time of year, you might like to indulge in festive treats, by making a conscious decision to do so, this will allow you to determine how much and what you have.
4. Take time to appreciate your food
Start with a small pause to smell and admire the food are eating. Hey, you or someone else has gone to some effort to provide this for you! The digestive process starts in the brain, so taking some time to smell, see and acknowledge your meal can also help improve digestion, as well as allowing you to enjoy the process.
5. Take your time over eating your food
I grew up in a house where it was always a race to see who could finish dinner first and get down from the table. This is not what we should be doing! By eating more slowly and chewing thoroughly we help get the digestive processes working effectively, but we also allow the brain to sense when our bodies are full. And you get a chance to savour the foods as you eat them.
6. Eat without distractions
Turn off the telly, shut the laptop, sit down at the table. By eating with no external distractions, we can turn our full attention to what we are eating - which, in turn, allows us to be more in tune with our bodies, appetites and sense of fullness.
As well as providing nutrients and energy, food should be a source of fun and enjoyment. And this is particularly true as we approach the festive season. Sharing food with our families is such an integral part of this time of year and we should take the time to enjoy it guilt-free.
By following these six simple steps hopefully, we can take some of the absent-minded eating away, leaving us with the foods we have consciously chosen, eaten in a way that enables us to enjoy them, and thereby we can thoroughly appreciate our celebrations.
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