During the holidays, I used to eat until my stomach hurt and I had to secretly unbutton my pants, and then I felt guilty and fed up with myself (sorry, couldn’t help it!).
My relationship with food began to change when I started incorporating mindfulness into my mealtimes. As a self-care coach for women, and a meditation and mindfulness expert, I now teach my clients these and other tools. They have been life-changing for me, and I encourage you to give some of these tools a try. Here are my five best tips for eating more mindfully:
1. Do a quick body scan before you start eating.
I have always been a really fast eater. I mean so fast that in the past I have caught people from nearby tables at restaurants staring at me. Totally embarrassing! When I started paying attention, I noticed that I often felt a bit of tension in my body before I began a meal.
I combat this now with releasing this tension before I eat. When I take the time to do a quick body scan from head to toe in order to notice where I am holding stress, to breathe into it, and release it, I start my meal much calmer and, in turn, eat a lot more slowly.
2. Take a minute to be thankful for your food.
I take a brief moment to bless my food with just a sentence or two such as, “I love my food and my food loves me,” or “Thank you, universe, for this nourishing meal.” A touch of gratitude goes a long way for setting the tone of your meal.
I take a brief moment to acknowledge how much this food is helping my body to stay healthy, and I contemplate all the people who helped get this food to me. It isn’t just about the chef; it is also about the farmers, the delivery truck drivers, and the people who work at the store.
3. Decide whether you even like what you are eating!
I use the good French fry and the bad French fry example here. We have all had amazingly delicious fries before. They are piping hot with the perfect amount of salt. They are worth it! Most of us have also had cold, mushy fries that are 100 percent not worth it. Those are the ones we eat and then feel a wave of guilt wash over us.
Now, when I am eating something that is anywhere from borderline to downright unhealthy, I take one bite and determine whether I even like it enough to have more. If I take a bite and really love it and want another bite, I will savor it without beating myself up. If I take a bite and deem it completely not worth it, I simply stop at one bite.
4. Limit technology use while you eat.
Are there days that you waste lots of time on the Internet and social media? If so, join the club. It almost happens without us even realizing it, right? Well, if we are being that mindless during our digital binge, just imagine how many chips or chocolate-covered almonds we can pop into our mouth without even realizing it.
We eat much more mindfully when we actually focus on eating. We enjoy the taste and smell of our food, we put our fork down between bites, and we appreciate what we are eating. I try to make eating my main activity, not something I do while I am watching TV. Mindfulness also includes sitting down while we eat, and not ever eating out of a bag or box. Always decide how much of something you are going to eat before you start by mindfully putting it on a plate.
5. Follow the in/out rule.
When I am at home I eat really healthy. I don’t eat anything white like pasta, potatoes, or bread, and I eat only natural, raw sugar like honey. My favorite treat is 72 percent or higher dark chocolate and I have a piece twice a day, after lunch and dinner. I don’t feel deprived at home and I enjoy coming up with creative ways to enjoy lots of produce.
I balance this healthy routine at home with occasional splurges when I am out. For me, I limit these splurges to when I am out because it can be a slippery slope for me. The last time I kept salted caramel gelato at home I was eating it every single day, not as an occasional treat. Instead I treat myself outside of my home. If I see a dessert that I want, I have it at a restaurant and I don’t beat myself up. The in/out rule really allows me to eat super-healthy most of the time without feeling guilty about indulging once or twice a week.
I truly hope that these mindful eating tips help you not just over the holidays, but all year long.