Candy, chocolate, cookies, and cupcakes... Cacao, spiced apple cider, and pumpkin spice lattes... Mmm... Halloween weekend is here along with its colorful multitude of sugary treats and fall-inspired drinks. While ghouls and goblins might be scared away by half-naked girls running around the Halloween party circuit here in New York City, us yogis are probably scared of falling out of sync with our wellness routines -- which is, unfortunately, often a consequence of the upcoming holidays.
Halloween is just the beginning of a two month holiday parade with endless parties, dinners, and cocktail hours. It's the time when staying true to clean eating can become challenging to say the least. One of the reasons is the constant availability of sugary treats. At the office, at home, at your relatives... everywhere you go there will be piles, baskets, and mounds of sweet -- where can a poor girl find enough willpower to not overindulge in sugar?!
At home you can manage what you eat. You can even make delicious desserts without gluten and excessive sugar. However, when you are out and about, this isn't the case. There is nothing horrible in having a few spoons of creme brulee or a warm bread pudding as long as you can stop at just a couple of spoonfuls. A small amount is easier to digest and won't lead to physical and emotional havoc unless you have serious food sensitivities.
Stopping at the right moment can be the biggest challenge though. Many of us have “all or nothing” personalities, especially when it comes to food. We can either fully withhold from sugar for weeks at a times, or on the flip-side, finish a whole (piece of) cake in one sitting. Something happens with commitments, promises, and self-imposed diet restrictions after that fateful first bite. Self-control evaporates and we fill our stomachs beyond comfort.
Surprisingly, stopping at the right moment when eating is not about self-control or exercising willpower. It is about listening to your body’s signals and about eating mindfully.
If you listen to your body you won't have a problem of feeling stuffed or guilty after a meal. You will be able to join the ranks of people who can eat whatever they want without deprivation and without gaining weight. Sounds like a dream? It’s real, but learning to listen to your internal voice takes some practice, like every other skill. The more you practice the easier it becomes.
First you have to start by posing some questions and giving honest answers. Before we talk more about mindfulness, let's talk about why we eat sweets. Why do you eat sweets? Be honest. Is it because of the taste? Smell? Comfort? Hunger?
If taste is among your top reasons for eating dessert then let's explore further.
We taste something only while it's in our mouth. Once we swallow it, there's no more taste. (This is a logical well-known fact.) It seems that based on this fact people who really enjoy the taste of sweets would slowly savor every bite and chew with full attention and focus, however, in reality isn't so. Often, we are looking forward to the dessert and once it's in front of us, we eat it so fast that we can't even taste what we're devouring. Once nothing is left on the plate we still feel hungry because we didn't get to enjoy the taste; our need for the taste of sweets hasn't been fulfilled. Seems like the most counterproductive situation, right? We wanted to enjoy the cake but instead we shoved it in so fast that the taste buds didn't even register the taste...
To change this unfortunate tendency and truly enjoy desserts, we have to be mindful at the table. Take a moment to think of a time when you really enjoyed eating and felt comfortably full after. A time when you felt present, at peace, and in control of what and how much you ate. Try to remember what made it this way. What senses were engaged? How were you using your senses to perceive food and to interact with it?