Mindful eating at parties – during the holidays and beyond
Georgene Sommer, Registered Dietician, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers
We all know that the holidays means parties, food and a lot of temptation! If you are watching what you eat for any number of reasons, it can be a scary time. It’s quite the challenge to get through without overeating, then feeling guilty about it. What if we switch gears? What if we take this time to really enjoy our food? Now, this doesn’t mean eat anything and everything we see or want. It means being mindful about what we eat. Thinking about our food, being present while we eat it and really enjoying the experience.
Think about why you like what you’re eating. It’s ok to eat some of your favorite foods. But if you’re going to do that, really think about it – don’t just gobble it down. Does the cookie bring back good memories? Do you love the flavor? Or the texture? Ponder what you like about that food while you are eating it, to really enjoy and be present in the experience.
When you decide to eat something – make sure it packs a flavor punch. Don’t just eat what’s there to eat. What flavors do you really love? What makes your mouth water? When you are at a party or gathering, chose what foods you are going to eat based on flavor. Everything isn’t worth it – but some things really are. Chose those foods and maximize your enjoyment.
Don’t deprive yourself. If you tell yourself no, then give in, you are often flooded with guilt and an overstuffed, aching tummy. Go to gatherings with the mentality that you are going to eat good food and you are going to enjoy it. Not overeat – but get joy out of what you do eat. This takes away the guilt and lessens the chance for binge eating, allowing us to experience the happiness of eating something delicious.
Don’t skip meals the day of. If you are going to a party eat regular meals that day and stay on routine. “Saving up for the party” simply doesn’t work. You end up rushing into the party, starving, ready to eat the whole buffet without even looking at what’s there.
Scan the situation before eating. Look and consider the options before filling your plate. Take a moment to see what’s available and what the optimum flavor items are for you. Go for those foods. Don’t let a moving buffet line influence you to mindlessly fill your plate. Know what you want, what you will most enjoy and then get in line.
Practice saying “no.” Hosts are gracious and want you to enjoy, so they often offer you time and time again plates of tasty treats – it’s hard to say no. Before you go, rehearse and visualize yourself at the party, how you would like to enjoy it. You might have to repeat it, so stay strong. Imagine yourself enjoying food and walking away without feeling stuffed or guilty. How does it feel being too full? Which would you like to accomplish that night? It’s hard, but it’s ok to say no.
Chat away from the food. Out of sight, out of mind. If the organization of the party allows for it, sit or stand away from the food where you aren’t constantly tempted to have “just one more.” That way you can go back if you really want to, not because it’s simply within arms reach.
Take a moment to reflect. When you get home think about how you feel, what you did right and what you can improve next time so you have some experience to build on. After the reflection, move on even if everything did not go perfectly, do not get caught up with guilt and destructive self- thoughts.
Take back your experience with your food and remember how it feels to truly enjoy what you eat – without going overboard, of course.