Note to Reporters: The following column was written by Melissa Wdowik, PhD, RDN, FAND, an assistant professor at Colorado State University in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and director of the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, I often hear negative refrains related to nutrition and lifestyle: We are too busy to exercise, too stressed to take care of ourselves, too preoccupied to eat right, and too likely to gain weight. You are often resigned to waiting until Jan. 1 to get back on track. Instead, enjoy every day of this month, maintain your weight and enjoy the holiday season more by being mindful.
The practice of mindfulness, which has been around for thousands of years, continues to grow in popularity thanks to its merits: improved emotional state, lower anxiety, better immunity and healthier response to stress. Mindful eating is a component of mindful practice that can improve your diet, your weight, your health and your enjoyment of the holidays.
Mindful eating is defined by The Center for Mindful Eating as “allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.” The Center for Mindfulness describes mindful eating as an integration of mindful practices with an understanding of habits, cravings and stress eating. At the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center, we see mindful eating as eating with intention and attention, allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite food and drinks without guilt or shame. The key is to not overdo it. Try these tips to practice mindful holiday eating.
• Be in the moment. Instead of multitasking, pay attention to the experience at hand – the foods, drinks and atmosphere.
• Savor each bite and sip. Take the time to notice the appearance, smell, taste and texture.
• Slow down. To break the habit of eating quickly, eat with your nondominant hand, and between bites, put down utensils, dab your mouth with your napkin, and take a small sip of water.
• Decide what is special. If chips and dip are available year-round, consider skipping those and choosing seasonal foods that you only see during the holidays.
• Acknowledge your cravings. If you want a food, have a small portion. Ignoring the craving can make it worse and trigger you to finally give in and overeat that food.
• Respect your body. Once you have acknowledged your craving and decided not to deprive yourself, decide not to overindulge as well. Enjoy a small amount that makes you feel good, not sick.
• Limit quantity, not quality. Select the most flavorful foods and drinks you can. Since you are having less, make it worth it.
• Be aware of environmental cues. Large plates, unlimited options and standing next to the buffet will likely prompt you to eat mindlessly. Use smaller plates to create a sense of abundance and socialize away from the food.
• Create a pleasant environment. Set the table and sit down to eat. Even when eating alone, the setting can add to your satisfaction and enjoyment so you don’t rush through your meal or gulp down your snack.
• Be aware of social cues. When others are indulging, offering you food, or connecting fun to food, you are more likely to eat and drink. If you do not really want to partake, be sure to communicate or use a creative diversion.
• Be thankful and enjoy the holidays! Taking a minute to appreciate the time and effort that went into the food and drink can help you slow down and be fully present.
For more mindful eating tips, visit www.nutritioncenter.colostate.edu.
Melissa Wdowik, PhD, RDN, FAND, is an assistant professor at Colorado State University in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and director of the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center.