This is the time of the year when families get together and there are many feelings that can arise from those encounters! I know, I also have a family! Whether it's a chocolate cake, a bag of chips, or a pint of cookies and cream ice cream, most of us have that one food we tend to gravitate towards when we're stressed or mindlessly eating when we're bored or anxious. The good news is that mindfully eating can help you recognize the feelings behind your behaviors around food and help you stay present with your food.
Mindful eating is the ability to put down your joggling balls and stay focused on one task: eating your food! When you embrace monotasking as a way to stay present, you become more aware about your fullness and hunger levels as well as the way you connect with food, really paying attention to what your body needs or your intention when you’re eating. Healthy eating and mindfulness encourages you to be present with your senses, your food, and your body, and be less judgmental about your thoughts and feelings.
When you are more present with your current experience you are less likely to act out on urges to overeat or mindlessly eat when you are not really hungry or you are already full, when you are actually feeling sad and lonely, and not physically hungry. Mindful eating helps you become more acceptant and connected with your body and nurture it in a way that moves you towards health and personal growth and awareness.
Here are few ways to help you manage emotional eating this holiday season and stay more grounded during meals:
Sit down at the table during meals and avoid multitasking! Yes, put your phone down and turn off the t.v.
Connect with your food through your five senses: 1. See your food: observe the colors of the food on your plate, the shapes, the sizes. 2. Touch it: feel the temperature of your food and take the time to sense how it feels holding the food in your hand if possible. 3. Smell it: gently move your face toward your plate and smell the different foods that are in front of you. 3. Taste it. gently try each food item individually to experience the different favors on your plate.
Avoid making judgements or labeling foods as “good” or “bad”. This only create shame and guilt. If you spot your mid going that route, bring your awareness back to the food and simply by noticing it and reconnecting to your five sense.
Make a list of activities that you enjoy doing such as meeting with friends, walking, reading, journaling, gardening, going to the movies, doing arts and crafts, watching DIY videos, etc. Keep this list in your wallet and refer to it when you get the urge to eat out of boredom.
Call up a friend or family member who can take your mind off of eating and maybe offer a helpful ear if you need to vent.
Try waiting out the urge by giving yourself 10 to 15 minutes before you go to food. If you still want to eat after the 10 minutes have a small portion or have foods available to you already portioned.
Drink a glass of water or have a cup of tea. Sometimes hunger can be mistaken for thirst.
Keep healthy snacks with you especially if you know that you will be away from home for long periods of time. Some healthy snacks can be almonds, baby carrots, cut up fruit, and celery.
Don’t deprive yourself or punish yourself by not eating. Eat exactly what you want. Restricting yourself will add more uncomfortable feelings to an already complex experience. Allow yourself to have a treat and portion it.
Eat with intention and attention. This means reflecting on why you’re eating and connecting to your internal hunger/fullness levels, setting a positive intention for your meals such as “being really present with your food”, or feeling grateful for the food you’re having. Choose to take care of your feelings when you’re emotional and not eating them. Stop when you’re satisfied as a way to honor your body and hunger, and truly enjoy your food.
Eat slower than you usually would, paying full attention to each bite, and pausing between bites, letting the flavors settle down before taking the next bite.
When you’re almost done with your plate, pause and ask yourself: How full am I? Adjust second portions to this information, and honor your hunger if you need another portion of food.
If you think your eating is due to stress, depression, anxiety or inability to regulate your emotions, acting on the urge to eat won’t resolve those symptoms, it will make them worse. Seek out help from a mental health professional specialized in Eating Disorders and free yourself from the chains of emotional eating by learning healthy ways to cope with your emotions and recreate your relationship with to food.