It’s holiday time, and even though you may have made it through Thanksgiving without too much damage, there are holiday parties, meals, and other gatherings coming up in the next few weeks. How can you make it through them without eating or drinking too much and adding unwanted pounds?
One expert, Dr. Jean Kristeller of Indiana University, has developed an intervention known as Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) that assists with just this problem. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to take her 10-week course, you can benefit from the basic mindfulness principles on which the course is based. These principles are summarized below:
1. According to Dr. Kristeller, the first few bites of any food taste better than subsequent bites. It makes sense, therefore, to eat slowly and take the time to savor those first few bites. When the flavor starts to drop, it’s time to move to another food.
2. Don’t be taken in by the heaps of food available at holiday celebrations. Just looking at what’s available can be overwhelming. Avoid thinking that you have to try some of everything. Scan the table first, identify foods that look most appealing, and target those.
3. Match the quantity of food you eat to your hunger level. If you don’t feel hungry, then you shouldn’t eat much. This can be difficult during the holidays, but don’t let fear of offending others cause you to overeat. Don’t pile up your plate with lots of food if you are not hungry. Remember that you are responsible for your own actions and emotions, not the negative reactions of others.
4. When your body feels full, stop eating. This becomes easier if you eat slowly, noticing the texture of the food as well as its flavor. Also notice the effort that goes into chewing each bite. By chewing slowly and appreciating your food, you will give your body more time to feel full, and you will stop eating after consuming less food. It’s acceptable to leave food on your plate when it is no longer enjoyable and/or you are full.
5. If you feel hungry later, you can always eat more food. Reminding yourself of this can help you not to overeat in one sitting.
6. For many people, eating is tied to emotion and provides a way to help regulate emotion, particularly negative emotion. This can be a significant problem at holiday events with families, when not everyone gets along or certain family members harbor unpleasant feelings toward others. Practicing mindful breathing or meditation before eating to reduce stress and induce relaxation may provide a means to reduce emotional eating.
7. Because your goal is to limit your food intake, try to eat the healthiest foods to get a balanced diet. Save sweets and alcohol to the end of the meal so that you will consume less of them.
Remember, not everyone has the same untrained ability to engage in mindfulness. This is true of mindful eating as well. Nonetheless, even without training, paying attention to these helpful tips should assist you in getting through the holidays with a feeling of control and minimal weight gain.