7 Pleasurable Eating Practices To Avoid Seasonal Weight Gain

Over the past 12 years, I've found that the secret to losing weight is not about enjoying less but about enjoying more. I've discovered that the path to losing weight is much more than a 30-day plan: it's a whole new way of living and relating to food and your body.

When we create a life that is truly pleasurable, our relationship with food becomes more natural and intuitive, and when we learn to eat with pleasure, the brain and the body work together to tell us when to eat and when to stop, without the need for restriction or control. Science shows that stress can cause weight gain. Fortunately, the reverse is also true: relaxation, pleasure, and sensuality create the metabolic conditions that stimulate weight loss. Pleasure is a trust-worthy, intelligent guiding force. It is a vital daily nutrient. Instead of controlling, restricting, and pushing yourself, you'll learn to awaken your senses to pleasure, so that you can feel more, savor more, and enjoy this feminine approach to weight loss.

Pleasurable eating practices are deceptively simple, yet they are some of the most important secrets to a balanced relationship with food and your body. The following seven practices will help you avoid holiday weight gain:

1. Relax Before You Eat

Just as fire needs oxygen to burn, your body requires a steady source of oxygen — which you provide through deep breathing — to maximize its calorie-burning efficiency. In just one or two minutes, deep breathing can significantly increase your oxygen intake and ignite your metabolism. Whenever you prepare to eat, first take several deep, conscious breaths to relax your body and mind and to prime your digestive fire with oxygen. As you continue to pay attention to breathing deeply and stay present with the experience of eating, you will become more relaxed, and the result is that you will be satisfied sooner and find that you eat less.

2. Smell the Food

Whenever you sit down to a meal, bring yourself to a relaxed state and take a moment to deeply smell your food. You can do this by either taking long, slow inhalations, or rapid sniffs, or a combination of both. Allow the aroma of the meal to be a distinct aspect of the overall pleasure of your eating experience. Consciously smelling your food helps to activate efficient digestion, which of course supports pleasurable weight loss.

3. Seek Pleasure in Every Bite

You are now ready to eat. You'll find that when you eat with pleasure, incredible things happen. You smile, relax, and appreciate the beauty of who you are. All your senses come alive, and you are more present to the world. You signal your metabolism to ramp up your calorie-burning efficiency because you're not in a stress state. When you eat with sensuality, you heighten the pleasure of the meal by slowing down and deliberately savoring the experience through your senses. The aim is to extract as much pleasure from the food and the eating experience as you can to heighten your metabolism.

4. Master the Art of Chewing

There is something very relaxing about thoroughly chewing your food, and it also helps you enjoy the whole spectrum of tastes and aromas that make up the meal. I've found that chewing makes food taste better and increases the pleasure of every bite. Chewing initiates the release of enzymes that allow your body to assimilate more nutrients from the food you eat, prevents gas and bloating, and makes digestion more efficient. When you are in touch with the mechanics of eating, you'll be able to better identify the point at which a particular food no longer adds pleasure because you'll be present to your meal.

5. Eat Slowly and Sensually

Slow eating invites sensuality and presence. When you eat slowly, it allows you to derive more sensory pleasure from the experience,

and because you receive more enjoyment from eating, you are satisfied sooner and ready to put down the fork, without it being a discipline to stop. When you eat slower, you metabolize faster. Because eating slowly helps you eat less without feeling in the slightest way deprived, it is one of the secrets of pleasurable weight loss.

6. Breathe While You Eat

As you eat, breathe consciously through your nose and enjoy your food at a relaxed pace. I can't emphasize enough the power of consciously breathing while you are chewing to completely change your relationship to food. Every few minutes put down your fork, and take a mini-breath and relaxation break. Stop chewing, and continue breathing deeply, savoring the smell of the food and allowing yourself to relax into the experience.

7. Eating to the Point of Energy

The way this technique works is to pay close attention to your energy level before you eat and as you eat. You'll find that before you eat, your energy is low. That's your body's way of indicating that food is needed. Then, as you eat, your energy will increase. You will feel more alert, less tired, and more energized. When you've had enough to eat, your energy will start to go down. The trick is to stop eating just at the point when you first feel your energy dip. When you've gone even one bite past that point of energy, you'll start to feel heavier and fatigued; that's the indication that it's time to stop.

Adapted from Pleasurable Weight Loss: The Secrets to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Loving Your Life Today by Jena la Flamme. Copyright © 2015 by Jena la Flamme. To be published by Sounds True in January 2015.

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