Guess what? You really don’t have to eat until you’re full. You don’t have to ‘clean your plate.’
If you’re slowing down and being present while you eat, you will notice when your hunger is satisfied. Stop eating then. Push your plate away. Enjoy the conversation with your dinner mates. But just don’t eat any more. If you feel like you want to eat, but you know you’re not hungry, drink water.
This seems to be the most difficult for many of us, myself included. As kids a lot of us were taught we must eat everything on our plates. In our family we were also taught we had to try everything on the table. This creates some devastating habits.
So, here’s your permission slip: you CAN leave food on your plate, you CAN only eat the food you like.
No child in a third world country is going to suffer any more than they already are because we leave food on our plates.
So how do you gameplan this for those family holiday feasts?
Focus on slowing down and stopping when you’re no longer hungry. Limit or avoid alcohol. Eat your favorite foods first.
Tomorrow at our Thanksgiving meal, the first thing on my plate will be sweet potato casserole. It’s my holiday fave.
Here is a downloadable worksheet to help with your plan.
How are you taking control of your health over the holidays?
Set mealtimes. Set your table. Sit at your table to eat.
As much as possible, set mealtimes in your home. Sometimes that seems almost impossible, but try to do so for at least one meal each day. It doesn’t even have to be the same meal every day. Maybe on weekends it’s easier to get everyone together for breakfast and during the week everyone gathers for supper. Make sure everyone stays at the table until everyone is finished eating. It’s not only good for your health to slow down while eating, it’s a great time for conversation, to get to know what’s going on in each other’s lives.
The point is to gather at the table with no distractions.
Set your table. Even if it’s a tray. In our travel trailer we don’t have a table, but we both have trays. For our meals we pull out the trays, sit beside each other on the sofa, and eat.
Make family meals an event, a tradition.
Do you have mealtimes already in your home? Do you involve your kids in helping to set the table and clear it after the meal is completed?
Tip number 3 is to think about where your food comes from.
What do you have on your plate? A protein, maybe? A vegetable or two? Perhaps a starch?
Where does that food come from? Think beyond the grocery store. Think about the farmer who grew the food. About his family. The people he employs. Think about the earth where those veggies grew. Think about the baker who prepared the bread. If you eat animal protein, think about the animals who supply our food.
Think about the workers who took the raw food sources and processed the food to have it ready for purchase.
Then move up the chain to the grocery store. Think about the person stocking the shelves. The cashier who rang up the purchase. The person who bagged the groceries.
Next, bring it closer to home. Think about the person who prepared the meal you are eating. Do you know the person? Are you eating at home? If you’re in a restaurant, think about the chef, the server, the bus boy, the dishwasher.
The point is to slow down enough to consider all that goes into the preparation of our food and to practice gratitude for receiving nourishment.
Have you ever grown your own vegetables or visited a working farm? How can you incorporate this practice into your daily life?
What did you have for breakfast? Did you like it? What flavors and spices stood out to you? What about smell? Did your food smell good? Inviting? Appetizing? Did you really even notice you were eating?
The second tip for mindful eating is to put your fork down between each bite. Focus on chewing your food, tasting all the flavors. How do the flavors change as you chew? How does the food feel in your mouth?
I’ve watched my dog, Jack, eat treats. If they are small enough, he doesn’t even chew, he just swallows them whole. I laugh and remind him that he might enjoy the treat more if he tasted it instead of just swallowing it. But, you know, he’s a dog, so he doesn’t care.
But consider this-how much time and effort do you put into preparing a meal, especially one like Thanksgiving, then it’s over in 10 minutes? Everyone gets up, talks about how full they are. Who really tasted the food? Who savored and enjoyed it?
How would your food choices change if you tasted the food, chewed it well, thought about the flavors? Would that fast food hamburger still taste as good? Would a hamburger made at home with your own seasonings and condiments taste a little better?
Try this exercise: pick a meal time that you will be unhurried, set your meal on the table, take one bite, then put your fork down, your hands in your lap and chew the bite. Do this with each bite. How was this eating experience different? Did it change your enjoyment of your meal?
Thanksgiving is one week away in the US. Can you believe it? This has been the longest and the fastest year all rolled into one. And given how bizarre this year has been, that makes total sense in my brain.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time of family, fun, gratitude, and…well, gluttony. You know I’m right.
But I think there’s a better way. Yes, definitely still enjoy some treats. I can promise you pumpkin pie will find my face. So will some sweet potato casserole. So how can I eat the things I love and associate with Thanksgiving without totally blowing my health goals?
Mindful eating is just the practice of mindfulness applied to eating. Being present. Being aware. Being focused.
Over the next few days I’m going to share my five favorite tips for mindful eating practice so that we can enjoy and indulge on Thanksgiving without totally committing gluttony.