AISLING LARKIN MINDFUL EATING FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON

Eating Mindfully for the Festive Season

The festive season can be an “eating minefield”. With boxes of chocolates everywhere, Christmas drinks and nibbles, office parties and nights out a weekly occurrence it can be so difficult to navigate your way through these weeks and simply mind your wellbeing.

So many other articles may tell you the “classics” of mindful eating –  drop your utensils between bites, no devices or distractions at the table, take time to just sit and enjoy, a list of naughty and nice foods. Although I agree with some of those this goes so much deeper than that.

As a trained mindful eating coach I want to give you real, practical and valuable insights that will genuinely enable you to change your eating behaviours this year.

Do it now –  don’t wait until January. This is all about realistic and sustainable changes in habit for your wellbeing. 

Eating mindfully is a powerful practice based in ancient Buddhist wisdom and new scientific, evidence-based research.

It simply means bringing an awareness to your actions, being wholly present in the moment and savouring the experience. This in turn allows you to be in control of your thoughts and actions. It also allows you to really experience the food which will lead to a great sense of satiety and ultimately less mindless binging and overeating.

Don’t wait until January  –  start today. 

Some Top Strategies To Help You This Christmas 

  1. Always make the priority of the occasion about something else besides eating. Be aware, present and grateful for the opportunity of a family get-together, a work celebration or a long overdue catch up with friends. Make the experience be about the joy of human connection and allow the food  to be the secondary focus of your attention for the evening. 

2. Tune in to your inner wisdom – interoceptive awareness brings focus to our inner cues and bodily signals of hunger and fullness. Try to take a few moments to bring attention to what the experience and sensations of hunger feel like. Acknowledge them and then eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. This is the general rule however when we are celebrating and loving life know that it is ok to eat when not hungry on occasions like these.

3. Remember if hunger is not the problem, food is not the solution.

Take a moment and bring an awareness to why you are choosing to eat in the moment. Are you really hungry, or is it something else? Are you eating to fulfil some other emotional or physical need? Are you eating because you are stressed? Emotionally charged? Perhaps you are reaching for food as a mechanism to procrastinate or avoid someone or something? It may be you are feeling some peer or social pressure to indulge? Maybe you have a preconditioned mindset from childhood that food is a reward and you have worked hard all year  –  you deserve this food! Maybe, quite simply, you are bored and reaching for food in that moment as a habitual thing that you have never even been aware of until now. In this instance just take a moment, bring a little focus and awareness to the ‘what’ and ‘why’ and then make your decision. You may be pleasantly surprised how much easier it is to walk away when you reach an understanding of why you reached for the food in the first place. 

4. When you do choose to eat apply a little discernment to your decisions. Think quality over quantity.

On average people make over 200 food choices per day and put on about 1 or 2 lbs over the festive period. Remember, no food or occasion is off the table – eating mindfully never involves restriction.

It is about taking a moment to focus and be present on the food you can choose. Scan the options, find the food you love the most, the one that satisfies you, take it, eat it and enjoy every moment.

If you feel you want another  – go back and take that too. Do a check in on how you are feeling and when you feel like you are getting full, satisfied and happy  –  stop. Be grateful for the great food and experience and move on.

5.Make it a multi-sensory experience

When you give yourself a few extra seconds to observe and fully experience the food you will savour and enjoy it so much more. Just spend an extra one second looking at the food –  the colours, shape, texture. Really smell your food.

From a physiological perspective we can only taste food on our tongue. To perceive flavour we need to have a retro and ortho-nasal experience. This means we need to use our sense of smell. When we chew food we release flavour volatiles which travel through our nose and the back of our throat in to our olfactory gland in our brain. This information then allows us to experience the real depth of flavour the food is offering us. This experience of smelling the aromas of the food allows us a much greater sense of satiety from our body. 

6. The more focus we bring to the experience of eating, the more satiety and satisfaction we gain. From a psychological perspective this can then delay the onset of hunger in our mind. Slow down when you eat, chew and swallow. 

7. Never restrict. If you want something have it and enjoy it.

Savour every moment. Restriction leads to feelings of punishment and deprivation and ultimately leads to over eating on another occasion. Have a little of what you love always. 

8. Don’t starve yourself all day.

Eat lightly if you know you are going to enjoy a big eating occasion later. By restricting during the day, your judgement is out of sync and this can lead to eating twice or three times as much as you should when you sit down to your meal. 

9. At a buffet canapé scenario, scan the table first, find the foods you will love the most. Take some on your plate. Move away from the table, sit and enjoy your food and if you feel like you want more, come back to the table and have what you would like. Your goal here is to maximise how much you enjoy eating what you choose. Bring an awareness to the fact that you are not restricting yourself from x, y & Z foods but simply savouring and enjoying a, b & c. This mindset will allow you to  create a whole new relationship with food. 

10. Start with the crudités and dips. Something like carrot sticks and hummus is a great one and it provides a lot of sensory input in terms of flavour and texture while allowing you to take the edge off the hunger and fill up a little, all the while bringing an awareness to the fact that the “good stuff”, the foods you love are not off limits.

You can and will have them in a moment. 

And finally, remember …… One Life ! It is a party, you are surrounded by happiness, people who love you.Be grateful for all you have in this moment.

If you would like to work on your eating behaviours and habits and learn how to change you behaviours and lifestyle forever more please feel free to drop me a mail or book in here for a free 30 minute online discovery consult.

Your wellness and your life should always come first.

Merry Christmas,

Aisling

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