It’s not all about willpower.
Sure, willpower and motivation are ingredients in the recipe for healthy eating, but it is about so much more than that. I have clients who think in order to lose weight that have to will themselves to avoid every single temptation and treat that is cast their way. This includes food marketing messages, treats available in their place of work, at home, at holiday parties, etc. This is simply not possible. Having this mindset is problematic as well because it leads to a cycle of restriction, followed by overeating and indulgence. It is also normal for us to have fluctuations in motivation. If we didn’t have fluctuations in motivation, we would simply get burnt-out by chronically elevated cortisol levels (although that does still happen to some people).
Now, if the answer is not motivation, how exactly do we stay on track with our healthy eating plans over the holidays? There is one key: mindfulness.
Mindfulness refers to the practice of being aware and in the moment. All too often, our thoughts wander somewhere other than where we are in the moment. Perhaps we are preoccupied with what happened an hour ago, worried about what might happen tomorrow, or stressed over what we need to do next week. Mindfulness encourages us to notice these preoccupations, and then to gently bring ourselves back to the now.
What happens when we’re not mindful? We eat because we’re bored. We eat because we’re stressed. We eat because we’re upset, lonely, anxious, frustrated, angry, etc. When we are not mindful and eat for these other reasons, we are not eating because we’re truly hungry. And then we overeat. And then we feel guilty for overeating. And then the cycle starts again.
Try mindful eating out this holiday season. Here are 5 ways to get started:
1. What Kind of Hunger is This?
When you’re about to eat, always ask yourself what kind of hunger you’re experiencing. Is it stomach hunger, which is true hunger? Is it mouth hunger, which is simply a food craving? Or is it heart hunger, which is eating in response to an emotion? Try this for a few days and count up how many times you’re eating for stomach hunger, or true hunger. You may be surprised.
2. Sit Down
Don’t eat on the go. Have a seat. You’re less likely to appreciate your food when you are multi-tasking. It’s also difficult to keep track of how much you are eating when you snack on the go, or when you’re eating finger-foods at the holiday party.
3. Chew 30 Times & Eat For 20 Minutes
Try to get 30 chews out of each bite. (30 is a rough guide, as it might be difficult to get even 10 chews out of a mouthful of oatmeal!) Take time to enjoy the flavors and textures in your mouth before you swallow. This may also help prevent overeating by giving your gut time to send messages to the brain to say you’re full. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re full – time how long it takes you to eat your next meal!
4. Put Down Your Utensil
Often, we are already preparing the next morsel with our fork and knife while we are still on our previous bite. Try putting down your utensils after each bite, and don’t pick them back up until you have enjoyed and swallowed what you already have in your mouth.
5.Eat in Silence
Put away your phone, turn off the TV. Any sensation that you experience outside of taste and smell while you’re eating can distract you and make mindful eating more difficult.While going through an entire meal in pure silence may be a bit much for most of us, designating the first 3-5 minutes of a meal for quiet and mindful practice can be an effective strategy.
Want to make it easier remember all these tips? Print off this mindful eating checklist below!