The holidays are filled food and lots of it! Holiday dinners with the family, Christmas baking, holiday cocktails, peppermint lattes, and an endless stream of tempting (and fattening) food choices. No wonder so many of us gain weight each year!
So, how do we make it to January in our skinny jeans? Well, first of all, I am not a big believer in the power of willpower. And I don’t think people are overweight because they lack willpower. Look at this way, if you rely solely on your willpower, you can go ten rounds with a piece of chocolate cake and win the first nine rounds by saying no, but if you lose that 10th round, you still lose the fight. You won the willpower battle 90% of the time, but still lost. And you are probably exhausted and ashamed!
So, rather than trying to willpower your way through the holiday food-fest, change the game. Here is a tool I use to really enjoy my food, but to do it in moderation.
Like most areas of our lives, we aren’t really present and mindful while eating. The TV is on, we are checking our phone, having a conversation, or eating at the counter while scrolling through our email. This significantly decreases our enjoyment of the food and, since our brains aren’t fully present, we miss our body’s fullness signals and blow right past “satisfied” to “stuffed.” Here is an exercise by Jon Kabat-Zin to help you practice mindful eating. He suggested trying it with a raisin, but any food will do.
Holding, Seeing, and Touching: Examine it as if you were an alien and had never seen such a thing before. What do its features look like? How does it fit in your hand? How do the ridges feel on the pads of your fingers?
Smelling: Hold the raisin to your nose and smell its aroma. Really get a sense of it. Does the smell arouse your senses? Does your mouth or stomach react?
Placing: Place the raisin on your tongue. Just hold it there. Examine the raisin with your mouth, without chewing. How are you reacting? How does this raisin feel?
Tasting: Place the raisin between your teeth and bite. Notice the adjustments and placements your mouth and tongue take in order to bite this raisin. When you bite, notice the texture. Note the flavors as they release. Pause after a few bites and experience the flavor and texture in your mouth. Continue chewing and noticing. Does the taste change?
Swallowing: Note the intention to ingest and the position your mouth takes. Finally, swallow the raisin.
Give this a try and see what you are missing when you mindlessly shovel food.
This holiday season, really be present and enjoy your food. You’ll be surprised how your body will cue you to stop before you get uncomfortable. And you get a little mindful me-time with your favorite holiday cookie, which is a pleasant break from the holiday rush. So, if you are going to have that cookie, have it, but do mindfully. Happy Holidays!