The holidays are right around the corner, and I know this can be a stressful time for many people and for different reasons. This year is going to look different for a lot of people as well (Thank you, Covid), which may add more stress. Let’s face it, we all have enough to worry about, food doesn’t have to be one of them. I thought I’d share a few of my most practical mindful eating tips to help you savour each bite of the amazing food you’ll be enjoying. These suggestions will help bring you back to the present moment, eat slower, enjoy your meals, consume the right amount your body needs, and have self-compassion for when things don’t go as you hoped.
Let’s get to it. Here are my tips:
- Take a 10-second “mindful pause” before starting a meal.
I promise no one will even notice you doing this. During those 10 seconds, take a few deep breaths, reflect on where your food came from and the long journey it took to arrive at your table. Be grateful for having access to delicious, nourishing food. Check in with your stomach and ask yourself how hungry you are and focus on enjoying the meal in front of you. Doing this exercise just once a day can make a huge difference.
It’s also helpful to check in with yourself again in the middle of the meal to reassess your hunger or fullness. If you feel full, this could be a sign your body is telling you to stop eating for now. You can wrap up the food and save it for later when you are hungry again or for tomorrow!
- Put your fork down between each bite.
This is so simple yet most of us are used to continuously putting the fork in our mouth without pausing to actually chew our food. Putting down your fork helps slow down your eating, giving your brain time to send its fullness signals to your stomach, and enables you to actually taste and savour your food.
- Be curious.
This may sound strange but it’s very empowering. When you are eating a holiday meal (or any meal or snack), ask yourself the following questions: how does this food feel in my mouth? What does it taste like? What does it smell like? What kind of texture does it have? Do I like the taste?
You may discover that you don’t actually like the taste of something, in which case you may decide to discontinue eating it. Or you may notice something about a food that you’d never paid attention to before!
This exercise helps bring yourself to the present moment and be mindful about what you’re doing. It also helps slow down the pace of your eating and let’s you experience more pleasure and satisfaction from your meal.
- Practice self-compassion.
This may be the hardest tip of all because people are usually much harder on themselves than they are on others. But it’s time to bring that kindness that you bring to others back to yourself. If you feel like you “overate” during the holidays, feel uncomfortably full from some of the meals, or start to notice that food guilt creeping in – I encourage you to have self-compassion. It’s the holidays after all – you’re meant to enjoy the festive meals and cherish the time amongst loved ones. One meal where you felt stuffed is not going to impact your overall health.
So when you notice that you’re being hard on yourself – ask yourself this: “What would I say to a friend in this situation?” Chances are you would NOT berate them for eating the extra piece of chocolate cake. You’d probably say, “it’s okay. It’s just one meal. And it’s the holidays. I’m glad you enjoyed that cake.”
There you have it, folks, my top four tips for mindful eating over the holiday season. Keep in mind that these practices are helpful ALL year round. Think of them as tools in your toolbox that you can pull out at any time. They don’t take long to implement, but they do take patience and practice and get easier over time (think of it as building new habits).
Most importantly, I hope you enjoy this holiday season whichever way you plan to celebrate. 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year with the pandemic, so I wish for you to have sweetness at the end of it.
Which of these tips are you going to start implementing? Have you heard any of these before? Let me know in the comments below.