Christmas Day. A good reason to overeat – or at least, that’s the way many of us approach this annual feast. Not only does such an attitude lead to physical discomfort once we finally leave the table, it’s also likely to generate anxiety and guilt around weight gain and health issues.
Wouldn’t it be great if instead you could look back on your Christmas dinner having enjoyed yourself with no regrets? Enter Mindful Eating.
Mindful Eating is about focusing our attention and awareness, without judgement, on the foods we are consuming. It’s an approach that can help us to choose foods that are both nourishing and satisfying, and often results in weight loss and improved mental health.
Mindful Eating can take a while to get the hang of, but you will get better with practice. So why wait until Christmas day? You can apply these 5 key principles to any day, meal time or social event.
#1 - Freedom to Eat All Foods
Mindful eating starts with choice. If we forbid foods, we tend to crave them more, feel guilty when we eat them, and then eat more because we feel guilty. Mindful eating means giving yourself permission to eat whatever it is you want most – so long as you are also considering the remaining 4 principles.
#2 - Being Present When You Eat
When you are eating, eat! Focus on what you are putting in your mouth, and eat with all 5 senses. How does your food look, feel, smell, taste and sound? To fully use your senses you’ll likely need to remove other distractions. As an experiment, try turning off the TV and putting away your phone. You’ll also need to slow down your eating so you can really taste and savour each mouthful.
#3 - Honouring Your Body's Hunger & Fullness
Our bodies are wonderful self-regulators, but often we have been taught to ignore our fullness – do you remember being told to finish everything on your plate so that you could have dessert? We can relearn the ability to hear our natural start and stop mechanisms by pausing to ask ourselves questions like “How hungry am I?” and “Am I very hungry or only a little bit hungry?”
#4 - Transcending Non-Hungry Cues
Most of our extra eating is triggered by factors other than hunger. It’s not that non-hungry eating is “bad” – but most of us do more of it than we’d like. When you start listening to your body, you may start to realise you often eat for non-hungry reasons, like emotions, social expectations, or just because the food is there.
#5 - Eating Foods Your Body Likes
When you put aside dieting “rules”, you still need motivation to eat well. Try thinking about how the food affects you – especially beyond the short period of eating. Ask yourself “Will this food make me feel fresh, energised and empowered, or bloated, annoyed with myself and sluggish?” When you consistently pair good food choices with feeling good you will develop powerful internal motivations to eat well.
If these principles are difficult to remember, perhaps just try to PACE yourself:
Pause - take a moment to tune into the process of mindful eating.
Acknowledge - how hungry you are and what is going to satisfy your appetite.
Choose to be present - be aware of each mouthful, the different flavours and textures, and how they make you feel.
Enjoy - what you have chosen to eat!