Mindful Eating For The Holidays
While many of us look forward to the sweet treats of Halloween and the big meals of thanksgiving, we don't look forward to the increase in waist size.
Other than avoiding these holidays altogether, what can we do to reduce the ill effects of over-eating? One answer may be adding a little mindfulness when we eat.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be described as "the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something." In other words, focusing our awareness fully on the present moment. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness reduces stress and cortisol levels, and has positive effects on our brain, such as improved memory and attention.
Mindfulness meditation is one way to employ this powerful method, however it is not the only way. Mindfulness can be utilized in all aspects of life, from eating and drinking, to walking in nature and brushing one's teeth.
Being fulling present when eating has several benefits.
By slowing down and anticipating a meal, it helps release stomach acid and digestive enzymes to prime our digestive system.
Thoroughly chewing and savouring each bite helps break down foods and mix them with saliva and digestive enzymes in our mouth, easing the job of the rest of the digestive tract.
Being present with your meal (and enjoying the company) helps reduce stress levels, and activates the parasympathetic "rest and digest" arm of our nervous system, as opposed to the sympathetic "fight or flight" response.
Mind Over Milkshake
There is also research showing that our response to the foods we eat is not solely determined by the composition and caloric content of a food, but also our mindset when we eat it.
In this study, participants consumed a 380-calorie milkshake under the pretense that it was either a 620-calorie "indulgent" shake or a 140-calorie "sensible" shake. The researchers then measured Ghrelin, which helps determine our feeling of satiety.
The results found that "The mindset of indulgence produced a dramatically steeper decline in ghrelin after consuming the shake, whereas the mindset of sensibility produced a relatively flat ghrelin response. Participants' satiety was consistent with what they believed they were consuming rather than the actual nutritional value of what they consumed."
How To Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is simple, really. All you need to do is be fully present during your meal - that means not eating on the run, not watching a video or texting during meals, and taking a break from work.
Here are some additional tips:
Dr. Tomah Phillips, ND