My last post, Eating Well During the Holidays – Getting to the Root of the Matter, described how to address the underlying triggers of overeating during the holidays. Now that you are aware of emotional and stress eating and their triggers, you no longer have to be hijacked by your emotions and cravings–you can choose. Choosing can mean that it is okay to eat that cake or do like the French and have three bites. Below are some basic strategies to help you eat more mindfully during the holidays.
1) Eat beforehand – If you eat before you go to the restaurant or head to a family member’s for the big meal, you are much less likely to overeat because you are already somewhat satiated. You won’t be tempted to eat anything and everything in sight because you won’t be famished when the food arrives.
2) Picnic at Christmas – We all know that social events always start later than planned. All the more reason to not only eat ahead of time so you aren’t famished, but to also pack a few high protein treats in your purse or bag. If you do start to feel hungry you can manage it with trail mix or coconut power balls.
3) No Daytime Famines – If you starve yourself throughout the day thinking that you can eat more calories that night, you are only kidding yourself. People who try to save up their calories not only slow down their metabolism, but also end up eating double their calories since they are so hungry by the time the meal arrives that they lose all control. Furthermore, hunger fuels cravings for carbohydrates which means more calories and more cravings! So eat real food and eat well during the day!
4) Keep a Food Diary– Research on diets have conclusively shown that people who developed the habit of writing down everything they ate in a day were most likely to lose weight and keep it off. In fact, maintaining a food journal has been shown to be one of the single, most effective ways to lose weight and to sustain the weight loss. The minute people became over-confident and stopped journalling, weight gain often followed. The reason? Writing down what we eat in non-judgmental manner helps to make us more mindful of not only what we are eating, but the why’s and offers us the opportunity to examine how it happened. Start a food diary today, instead of waiting for the New Year!
5) Limit Alcohol – This one is pretty straightforward. We all know that the more we drink, the more our inhibitions are greatly reduced. Naturally, the more we drink, the less carefully we will monitor what we eat.
6) Eat Skillfully – Eating well throughout the holidays, even pre and post-party will help you curb cravings since sugar greatly increases not only cravings, but anxiety and depression—which in turn causes stress eating. Try to eat food that is high in protein such as lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and meat and lots of vegetables. Bottom line: Eat real food and minimal carbohydrates and you will feel more in charge.
7) Food is not the Focal Point – Find ways to make food the accent, not the focal point this holiday season. Too often we wonder why we ate so much without realizing we were more excited about the food than anything else. If we are more excited about the food than our family and friends, then we need to re-work and re-evaluate what is really going on. Try to focus on the entire experience—don’t let food upstage your connections with what is really important.
8) Work the Room – To avoid getting sucked into the ‘over-eating black hole’, move around and avoiding hanging out around the dessert table (or cheese table or carb table). The more you mingle, the less likely you are to be faced with a dessert tray all to yourself. Try to make a point to be fully present in your conversations, instead of half-nibbling and half-eating.
2. Next, set the intention of what and how much you want to eat.
3. When you get your meal, take your fork and divide the food on your plate in half. You can eat both sides if you want, but this will remind you to check in half-way through your meal to see if you really need to eat more. If you want to eat a bit more, divide the food in half again. This division creates a perfect, mindful moment to pause and check-in.
4. Put your fork down in between bites to force you to eat slowly and more mindfully. Savour your food by chewing for at least thirty to forty seconds. Ask yourself regularly throughout the meal how full you are and how you want to feel after the meal. Too often we eat mindlessly. Once we push ourselves past feeling full our body has no way of now telling us enough until we are sick.
5. Lastly, when you are done, push the plate away. Nothing encourages overeating, like a plate of food that is still in front of you.
11) Get Cooking – Anticipate your cravings and pre-make several healthy munchies, snacks and desserts that are relatively guilt-free. Keep them in the refrigerator or freezer so that you can reach for them when you have the inkling. Offer to bring a dish to dinner that will satisfy your craving as well as spare you from feeling bad about turning down dessert.
12) Say “No thank you”– The above suggestion is a great way to avoid people pressuring you into eating food you really don’t want. I always had a hard time standing up for myself and strangely, it was food and my health issues I was experiencing to respect what I wanted and stand up for myself. I struggled greatly at first with feeling rude or snobby because I couldn’t eat certain foods. I often ate food that I knew would make me sick because I didn’t want to offend someone or seem like a party-pooper. Cultivate enough self-respect that you decide you deserve to respect your health and needs as much as anyone else. If necessary, kindly explain why you’re declining.
13) Listen to your Body – Rate how hungry you are before you eat and how full you want to be afterwards. Use a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being so stuffed you’re sick, 1 being famished and 5 is satiated). Maybe you are willing to allow yourself to go to a 6 because it’s the holidays.
14) Eat the Way you Want to Feel – Pause for at least thirty seconds and ask yourself how you want to feel? How will that treat or snack make you feel after you eat it? Is eating it worth it? Could you have a smaller amount?
By now, you might even be able to recognize some of these behaviours in people you know, who are ‘naturally slim’ or stay fit with ease. Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to incorporate all of the skills. Think about your areas and moments of weakness. Choose the ones that really resonate and practice them–not perfect them.