Thanksgiving (or Thanksgivukkah, if you also celebrate Hanukkah) is a mere two days away. It can be a wonderful day, full of friends and family and food, or it can be stressful day marred by regrets about what and how much you eat. Making a point of being mindful when you sit down to eat on Thursday can increase your enjoyment of the holiday meal while minimizing the need to unbutton your pants when you are done eating.
As Megrette Fletcher, M.Ed., RD, CDE, said during a Center for Mindful Eating teleconference last week, “A Feast of Holiday Mindfulness”:
Mindful eating says that food should be enjoyable and energy-providing. Mindful eating is all about enjoying food and recognizing that when we eat it in a mindless way, we may not enjoy it.
How can you be more mindful. Start by taking a moment at the start of the meal to think about the people who made that meal possible (farmers, food processors, truck drivers, grocery store employees, the person who shopped for the food, the person who cooked the food). If your family says grace, this is a good time to express gratitude for those people. If your family does not, you can choose to be a trendsetter, or simply reflect quietly and take a few breaths before picking up your fork.
Expressing gratitude (spoken or silent) is one way of honoring the food. Another way of honoring the food is to make of point of not taking more than you need. Take enough, and stop when you are comfortably full. This is easier if you eat in a mindful, attentive way.
When you don’t pay attention to your food, it’s stunning how little you taste it. And when you don’t taste your food, it’s hard to feel satisfied, even when by any objective measure (i.e., stomach fullness) you have had enough.
When we eat mindlessly, we often eat quickly. As I’m sure you know, it take about 20 minutes for our stomach to send the “Hey, I’m full” message to your brain. When you inhale your food without tasting it, that’s a perfect set up for overeating to the point of discomfort. On that note, I enjoyed the Washington Post article “Cut calories with better chewing.” Even if you aren’t worried about calories, per se, chewing properly helps you slow down your eating pace, which helps you be more mindful and appreciative about the lovely meal you are partaking in.
Even when we are being mindful and making a point to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are not, food pushers can thwart our resolve. For tips on how to gently deflect these (usually) well-meaning friends, family and coworkers, peruse the column I wrote last year, “Save your healthful eating habits by foiling holiday food pushers.”
It’s Diabetes Awareness Month, and while eating to manage blood sugar levels can feel challenging even on an ordinary day, it can feel more difficult during the holidays. Eating mindfully can be a real benefit (Megrette Fletcher works primarily with clients with diabetes). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has a nice article on “Managing your diabetes during the holidays.”
Finally, “food-based” holidays can be extremely stressful for people who struggle with disordered eating or actual eating disorders. I recently came across two great articles/posts on the subject, “Tips for staying on the eating disorder recovery track throughout the holiday” and “Thanksgiving with an eating disorder: How to make it easier.” Highly recommended reading for anyone who struggles with some form of disordered eating, as well as for those who will be sharing the Thanksgiving meal with someone who is (or may be) struggling.