7 Benefits of Mindful Eating This Festive Season
On the surface, this may not look like a topic that should appear on a health blog that normally encourages us all to eat healthy, alkaline, plant-based food.
When delving deeper, however, it becomes clear that this topic is equally at home here on our humble blog.
You see, there are several reasons why we have an unhealthy relationship with food, and multiple reasons why we eat so much unhealthy, fattening, acidic food. Without understanding these reasons, it will be hard to change our behaviour.
Read on to find out which foods you shouldn't be avoiding this festive season.
On Eating Mindlessly
If you have ever horrified yourself by eating a large packet of crisps while watching television, or a large pizza just because you felt the need to empty the box, you know what mindless eating means.
You are so distracted by your other activities or so focused on self-imposed eating rules that you hardly even taste the food. This is unfortunate for two related reasons.
1. Many people who are overweight claim that they cannot help it, that food tastes so good, and that they cannot help overeating. People who binge on sweet treats, rich creamy sauces, and heavy carbohydrate dishes cannot claim that they enjoy every bite, however, as our bodies are designed to send us satiety and nausea signals when we overeat, especially on sweet or rich foods that serve no physiological function. It is heart-breaking that so many people become unhealthy because of something they do not genuinely enjoy doing.
2. Food tastes fantastic. It is nourishing. It gives us energy, makes us happy. We are supposed to enjoy it, but too often we forget to do so because we eat mindlessly.
What Exactly is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is the art of eating for enjoyment and nourishment. It is the practice of noticing and appreciating every piece that you put in your mouth, of noticing every sensation inside your mouth and in the rest of your body.
Practiced mindful eaters can identify between five and ten different tastes in each piece of food. They can tastes how the flavour changes the longer they keep it in their mouths. They can feel it as it goes down their oesophagi to the stomach, and they can most certainly feel when they have had enough to eat.
They can also appreciate their food, because they become aware of all the individual ingredients and the agricultural or manufacturing processes that brought those ingredients to their plates.
How to Eat Mindfully This Festive Season
1. Eat only when you are hungry, not out of habit. To succeed, you will have to abandon some strange rules to which you have become accustomed. For example, it is not necessary to eat everything on your plate, especially not if someone else dishes up too much for you. Eat only for as long as the food is satisfying, after which you politely cover the plate and put it in the fridge for later.
It is not necessary to eat three or five times a day either. If your Christmas lunch is massive and you are still satiated by the evening, no-one will punish you if you skip the meal that you do not feel like having. Listen to your body and eat accordingly. This will also help you refrain from eating when you are stressed, bored or angry.
2. Eat slowly so that you can appreciate the food and notice when you are full. There is normally so much food at parties that there will be enough left over for you, even if you eat slower than everyone else. Even if there is not, it is better to have one plate of food that you truly taste and enjoy than to have two plates of food of which you are hardly aware.
Scientists believe that it takes 20 minutes for your body to send the satiety signal, which means you will miss it if you finish your meal in less than 30 minutes.
3. Drop out of the conversation from time to time. The point of parties is not just food, it is also good conversation, often with people we hardly see during the rest of the year. But it is still possible to keep your attention on your food and your body by dropping out of the conversation every now and then. The food will taste better and you will prevent yourself from overeating by noticing when you are full.
4. Focus on flavour. You can even bring it into the conversation. People love talking about food. If you eat a sweet treat, for example, you will notice that the first two or three bites taste sweet and satisfying, after which the later pieces taste substantially blander and even evoke nausea. If you attend to the flavour, you can stop eating at this point when the treat has served its purpose of delighting you.
5. Eat with the intention to nourish and satisfy yourself. This may make you aware of some of the bad reasons making you eat, such as anxiety, boredom, the need for social acceptance and so forth.
6. Create a mindful eating poster and stick it to your fridge or hang it on the dining room wall. (That should be an interesting Christmas lunch conversation!)
7 Benefits of Mindful Eating This Festive Season
1. You will eat smaller portions.
2. You will enjoy your food more.
3. You will feel less anxious and guilty about dieting, snacks and treats, which will make it easier to refrain from eating just because you are emotional. It will also allow you to enjoy the treats more.
4. You will be able to eat foods you enjoy instead of exhausting your willpower unsuccessfully avoiding them. When you avoid a type of food, you are aware of what you are avoiding, which places your attention squarely on it. This explains why people on calorie-restricted diets and people who deprive themselves of treats are so unsuccessful: they constantly think of the food they are prohibiting themselves from enjoying.
5. You will maintain a healthy body weight without restricting yourself and converting mealtimes into miserable occasions of despair. You can then even enjoy your time in the gym without the constant comparisons between calories burned and calories consumed.
6. You will be forced to find healthier ways of dealing with negative emotions; activities that may actually meet your psychological needs.
7. You will gain control over your eating habits. If you ask yourself why you eat, you are taking responsibility for whether you eat, what you eat, and how much of it you eat. Being in control of your life produces numerous physical and psychological benefits.
If you already eat a healthy diet, follow these rules during the festive season when you eat out. If you have been struggling to make a healthy diet work for you, keep general nutritional advice in mind but incorporate mindfulness into it.
For instance, instead of depriving yourself of a sweet treat, encourage yourself to have it, but make it with the ingredients that will be the kindest to your body, make you feel the healthiest, and give you the most energy.
In this way, you can even eat guilt-free chocolate and ice cream. And bring the pleasure back into eating!