Learn to Enjoy The Foods You Love
By: Therese Bredemus, MS, RD, LD
That time of year is upon us again…the hustle and bustle, holiday lights and décor, the family gatherings, and the FOOD! The holidays are a time to spend with love ones, celebrate traditions, express gratitude, and enjoy holiday foods together. However, many people struggle through this time of year and often restrict or overindulge in foods they love. Learning to practice mindfulness can help us improve our relationship with food and our experiences while eating. Read more to see how you can learn to enjoy the foods you LOVE throughout the holidays!
What IS Mindfulness?
Mindfulness refers to our ability to be fully present and aware of our surrounding environment, our bodies, our thoughts, and feelings. Being mindful also means being non-judgmental and accepting without believing there is a "right" or "wrong" way to behave, think, or feel in any moment. Mindful eating is when we practice the principles of mindfulness around food. This means being fully present when eating and having awareness of our surroundings and awareness of ourselves. This entails engaging all your senses to see, smell, and experience food in a new enjoyable way!
Benefits of Practicing Mindful Eating
One can practice mindful eating all year long! One of the greatest benefits of mindful eating, especially around the holidays, is that you get to eat and enjoy the foods you LOVE! Benefits of mindful eating include increased awareness of hunger and fullness cues and increased pleasure while eating. Some studies even show that those who regularly practice mindful eating noticed weight loss.
Tips for Mindful Eating
- Use all your senses when eating
Whether you are eating dinner, dessert, or drinking your coffee, smell, taste, feel, listen, and see your food through heightened sense lenses. Notice the texture, temperature, and flavors in the food. For example, instead of quickly popping a cookie in your mouth while passing through the kitchen, put that cookie on a small plate, sit down with it and really savor and enjoy that dessert one small bite at a time!
- Honor your hunger
Tuning into your body's physiological signals helps improve mindfulness around food. Ask yourself, how hungry are you? Are you starting to feel satisfied during the meal? Having awareness of your hunger and fullness cues is helpful in avoiding overeating and feeling too full after a meal. If you are hungry, honor those signals and eat, even if it is before a meal. Ignoring hunger signals purposely with the goal of eating more at a meal later only leads to ravenous hunger, overeating, and makes it more difficult to eat mindfully. Instead, eat a small balanced snack to hold your body over until the meal. Listen to your body by eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied.
- Practice self-care and coping mechanisms
Many people experience stress around holidays and using food to cope is a very normal human response. When we are not taking care of ourselves and our mental health, our emotions can negatively drive our eating experiences. It is important to practice self-care and coping mechanisms that you can apply during times of stress rather than turning to food. Assess your emotions before and during eating to help identify whether you are eating to satisfy hunger or in response to emotions. Some non-food related self-care and coping skills include deep breathing, aiming for enough hours of sleep, staying hydrated during the day, stretching, and taking a moment for yourself (even if that means slipping into the bathroom during a busy, stressful gathering!). Taking time for yourself and practicing emotional awareness will lead to more joy in every bite!
- Slow down
Slowing down while eating allows time for our brain to catch up to our stomach so we can feel our satisfaction and fullness during meals. We've all experienced those moments where you eat too fast, too much, then feel overly stuffed after a meal. Instead, slow down, set your utensil down between bites of food, engage in conversation and laughs with friends and family!
- Take smaller portions
During the holidays there are so many delicious foods that we typically only eat once a year! You will be happy to hear that you can enjoy all these foods while practicing mindful eating. By taking smaller portions (think one scoop of garlic mashed potatoes instead of two!), you can still eat a variety of things without feeling overly full after the meal. Take half of what you normally would scoop on the plate and remember you can always go back for more if you are still hungry. By practicing this, you can enjoy all your favorite holiday dishes and not feel sluggish after the meal - a win-win!
- Enjoy and have gratitude - Part of eating mindfully includes enjoying the eating experience and your favorite foods! To find more joy in our eating experiences, it is important to have a healthy relationship with food, even if you consider some of the foods you love to be unhealthy. Give yourself permission to enjoy the foods you love! In addition to enjoying food, we can improve our relationship with food by having gratitude and reflecting on all the processes that went into preparing the meals we enjoy. Think about all the effort that went into growing, farming, transporting, purchasing, and preparing the food before it arrives on your plate. Understanding and appreciating these processes helps enhance our connection to food even more.
- Give yourself grace
Life is busy and we cannot always remember to eat mindfully 100% of the time. Know that this is okay and it is better to practice mindful eating sometimes rather than not at all! Eating mindlessly once and a while does not mean you have an unhealthy relationship with food. Keep practicing these skills and they will grow over time!
More About Mindfulness
Mindfulness is beneficial to practice all year long, but can be especially helpful through the holidays. Continue to practice these skills throughout the holidays and into the new year. Remember that food is connection, food is tradition, food is what brings people together and should be celebrated, not feared! Make room for some of your favorites and express gratitude during this season and beyond.
If you'd like more one-on-one coaching on how to practice mindful eating, call us at 651-294-1150 to make an appointment.
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About the author:
Therese Bredemus, MS, RD, LD
Therese is a registered and licensed dietitian with significant experience helping people develop a personalized plan to build healthy habits, learn about nutrition management, create exercise plans, and better manage chronic conditions using nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle behavior changes.
She is very experienced working with women to develop nutritional plans for better management of PCOS, endometriosis, menopause, and pregnancy. Therese works hard to find solutions for her patients that meet their cultural, religious, and ethnic preferences while working within each person's learning style and motivational needs.