The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
We all probably know at least one person who consistently sticks to a healthy lifestyle, even around the holidays. We may call them “gifted” or assume they have some superhuman willpower.
Do you want to know their secret? They pay attention to not only what they eat, but also how they eat.
The “how” of eating must be part of the equation. In fact, it’s a much more natural place to begin because it’s how we were born. Yes, you and I came into this world as mindful eaters.
What is Mindful Eating
Mindful eating means being fully present for the eating experience. It includes:
- Awareness of the flavor, texture and aroma of your food.
- Paying attention to the sensation of your inner body as it gently moves from hungry to satisfied.
- Eliminating mealtime distractions like phone, email, texting, television, and yes, even reading.
- Eating in pure enjoyment and gratitude.
These are all natural behaviors witnessed by observing an infant during feeding time. Pay attention and you’ll notice that they are fully present with their food, which is why you’ll never catch them overeating. If three ounces is all they want, there’s nothing you can do to make them drink another drop.
Only when you are fully present with your food are you able to uncover and tap into your innate, fine-tuned ability to sense hunger and fullness. This ability will help you minimize the chances of overeating, which of course is a practice all too common around the holidays.
Make no mistake, the ability to be a more mindful eater is rooted deep within; you were born with this gift, and still harness it today.
Being Present with Your Food
When sitting down to enjoy a meal, you have three choices of where to place your attention:
- The past
- The future
- The present
Just like you can’t watch the movie ET without a box of tissues, focusing on the past and future when you eat can spark certain emotions like anxiety, worry, depression, resentment, restlessness, anger, guilt and resistance— all sensations that may cause you to ignore the yellow light of “satisfied,” blow through the red light of “full,” and get a ticket—in the form of a over-stuffed belly (what I call “Thanksgiving Day full”).
I’m not suggesting you push your emotions away. In fact, being present with your food involves noting and feeling your emotions in the present moment. It’s part of the experience!
If you’d like to test this mindful eating method for yourself in preparation for the upcoming holiday season, choose a meal to eat mindfully today. Eliminate all distractions during this meal and just be with your food in the present moment. As you eat one bite after another, pay attention to the flavor and texture of your food and feel your inner body as it goes from hungry to satisfied.
My wish for you this season is to truly enjoy your traditional holiday favorites—the turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberries, and yes, pumpkin pie! When you commit to being a more mindful eater, it’s easier to recognize feelings of fullness, and to stop when you feel satisfied. It’s a simple rule, really: Be with your food, in this moment and nowhere else. Remember, you have everything it takes to be a mindful eater.