The 12 Days of Christmas Health, Day 9

Practice Mindful Eating for the Holidays

Today’s tip is one of the more challenging in this blog series. Our lives have become so fast-paced that we spend a lot of time trying to work more, achieve more, be more. Learning to slow down and be in the moment goes against this “drive to strive”. But mindfulness, more specifically, mindful eating, is a great technique to practice in our aim to stay healthy during the holidays.

Mindfulness refers to the practice of focusing your attention on the here and now - without judgment, simply observing the world around you, as well as your thoughts, feelings and reactions - being aware, being in the moment. Mindfulness can help you fully enjoy a meal and the experience of eating — with moderation. Mindful eating helps to reduce binge-eating or stress eating.  And so it is a great practice for the holidays.

Here are 8 ways to work on mindful eating. As I mentioned, it can be a challenge – so don’t hard on yourself - try a few and see how they work.

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1.     Eat only when you’re hungry or when you need nourishment. Listen to your body - it will tell you when you need to eat. However, there are times when you should eat even if you’re not hungry, such as in the morning (breakfast is very important), to have energy for exercise, or when you know you will have to go without eating for a long period of time.

 2.     Create a stress-free (or as stress-free as possible!) environment for eating. Don’t read, watch TV, use the computer, drive or even walk while eating. Your focus should be on your food, allowing yourself to enjoy the food and to listen to your body’s satiety signals.

3.     Take time to sit down. No matter how small the meal, sit down while eating. This puts the body in the proper relaxed state to digest your food.

4.     Before sitting down to eat, take a few slow, deep breaths to relax the mind and body. Tension or stress can interfere with digestion – it can also cause you to overeat and to eat foods high in sugar, fat and salt, the so-called “comfort foods.”

5.     Take small bites. Taste buds are located primarily on the tongue. By taking small bites, you are allowing yourself to really savour each of those bites. This is also one of the steps of eating slowly, which allows your other senses to be involved in the experience. Savouring your food should also include taking the time to smell and really look at your food.

6.     Chew each bite of food 20 to 40 times before swallowing. Digestion starts in the mouth, with the enzymes that saliva contains…chewing your food makes it easier for the stomach to further digest it. And chewing each bite in this way allows you to really focus on the taste of the food that you are eating.

 7.     Try to quiet your mind, and really focus on your body’s reactions as you chew and taste the food. It will be a much more pleasurable experience.

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 8.     Stop eating when you no longer feel hungry (this one can be particularly difficult during the holidays). The feeling of being “full” (without over-eating) takes about 20 minutes to set in after you have finished eating. Eating slowly will help, but remember not to eat past the point where your hunger has been answered (refer to point #1 above).