Would you rather eat mindfully this Thanksgiving instead of overeat? We often approach Thanksgiving with the misguided belief that eating large quantities of delicious food will give us a lot of pleasure. Unfortunately, food is only pleasurable up until a point. It is a challenge, for all of us, to stop eating before feeling overstuffed and prior to the joy fading. In part, it is due to the time lag between eating and your body processing food. You also have to know your body extremely well. Mindful eaters are able to anticipate the line between pleasure and stuffed as it is approaching rather than passing it and then realizing it.
Mindful eating doesn't tell you what to eat and what not to eat. So don't worry. I'm not going to tell you to avoid the mashed potatoes and skip the gravy. Instead, think for a moment about the way you eat and how it helps or hurts mindful eating. For example, the most common problem on Thanksgiving is the timing. Why do we insist that Thanksgiving not be at a traditional meal time? For mindless eaters, it is a challenge to readjust your stomach's internal clock.
Consider a few very basic mindful eating tips to help you eat more mindfully this Thursday.
1) Take Home Leftovers: Bring your own Tupperwear. If you overeat because you enjoy good food, come equipped with your own doggie bag. No need to eat mindlessly if you know that you can savor it again later.
2) Sit Down: It sounds simple enough. But, how many of us take a plate of food and nibble on it until you've found a seat? It's hard to really enjoy food when you are standing up, balancing a plate. Don't take a bite unless you are sitting down.
3) State Out Loud Three of Your Favorite Thanksgiving Foods: It's likely that you named foods you only get once a year like cranberry dressing, Aunt Beth's sweet potato pie or turkey. Consider what it is about these foods that give you pleasure. The texture? Taste? Smell? Focus on the foods you really love. Savor. Consider whether you really enjoy filler foods like rolls, things you can get all year. Stick to what you know you love.
4) Take a Game or Photos: When food is the only event at Thanksgiving, it makes it too easy to mindlessly overeat. Bring your favorite board game or cards. Or, tote along photos from the year to ooh and ahh over.
5) Find Ways to Soothe and Comfort Yourself. Holidays are exciting and stressful. Find ways to calm and soothe yourself so you don't turn to calories for comfort. Click to Dr. Albers' article on Oprah.com "Ways to Avoid Stress Eating During the Holidays"
6) Rethink Thanksgiving: Perhaps we need to change our perception of the holiday before we can change our behavior. In many ways, Thanksgiving is just like any other meal. When isn't there an abundance of food? So, think of this meal like any others. Seeing Thanksgiving as "different" or "special" seems to imply that there is a different way we eat. Yes, it is a holiday. However, mindful eating is not a diet. You don't have to avoid good food. It just means eating it slowly, with full awareness.
7) Mindless Triggers: It's likely that you can pinpoint some of your most common mindless eating triggers. Do you tend to pick mindlessly at food when it is sitting directly in front of you? Does eating next to an annoying relative lead you to stress eat? Make a list of things that sabotage your mindful eating and strategize around how to address them. For example, pick your favorite person to sit next to and grab the seat. If you tend to pick at food, commit to passing food out of arm's reach as soon as you sit down.
Best wishes on Thursday! Eat, Drink & Be Mindful