Do you Love food?
It’s the holiday season and tasty sugar, fat and alcoholic delights are Everywhere. It doesn’t matter what diet plan/nutritional life path you’re on, either, when there are things like vegan fudge and paleo pecan pie. The urge to splurge and turn a cheat day into a cheat month is high. What on earth is a food lover to do but gain the inevitable 5 pounds of “winter weight” and burn it off in spring? What if I told you there was a tip that would let you eat ANY food you wanted to this season with minimal guilt and consequences? (I say minimal because man, do some people really excel at food shame so I can’t promise zero guilt.) Sounds too good to be true, right? Kind of like those crazy diet pill ads for speed or the way actors smile as they do hundreds of sit-ups, paid to pretend they’re fun. I assure you though, there IS actually a tip.
Full disclosure, I didn’t make this up. I just heard about it and began creating some experiments of my own. The best one was a lunch out with my wife at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. Alissia, despite not struggling with her weight, is a food scarfer. I’m usually still only halfway through my food when she’s contemplating seconds. At lunch, I challenged us to use the practice of Mindful Eating, a process that involves good breaths, putting your utensils down between bites and paying very close attention to what it tastes like/feels like… you know, actually enjoying the food. With this practice, my wife wasn’t even able to finish half of her lunch portion (which we all know are smaller than dinner sizes). We both took home pretty full to-go boxes for the first time in our marriage!
There are actually several things at work here. The first and most obvious is that you slow down, which allows your body to communicate clearly about when you have had enough. When we race through bites, we actually eat way more because our body doesn’t have the time to register that it’s full. It’s also about taking the time to actually love the food you’re eating. If your best friend rushed in, barely paid any attention to you and then spent the next couple of days complaining about how that time with you garnered negative consequences, chances are, you wouldn’t be feeling the love. Isn’t that exactly what we do with food? Eat on the run, feel crappy if we ate too much or chose junk food and then rant about the bloating, heartburn or weight gain? For people who claim to love food, I’m not sure we show it very well.
So, here are some tips for actually loving your food. Take a good, deep yoga breath before you eat. This calms the scarf reflex and any other emotions you might have brought to the table. Take a reasonable sized bite and pay attention to how good it looks, the smell, how it tastes, the texture of it on your tongue… really involve your senses in the process. Put your fork down after your bite. If you are dining with a friend who is willing to play along, discuss how amazing the bite was before taking another one. While you may not choose to do this process with every meal (though there’s no real reason not to!) imagine if you employed it with your favorite holiday treat food. You could really enjoy what you eat, eat less and alleviate guilt because you knew you were being intentional rather than pigging out. You could become that elusive someone who can just eat one (chip, bite, slice, helping… whichever!). Wouldn’t that be the best gift this holiday season?
*This guest blog post is from Kieta Wheeler. She will be doing a seminar on Mindful Eating in January. We will be announcing the date after the New Year. To find out more about Kieta visit her website at immeasurableyou.com