How to Eat Mindfully Over the Holidays
Published December 11, 2016 | Updated December 7, 2017
by Kim McDevitt, MPH RD, Vega National Educator
If you’re like me, you spend much of your day bolting from one thing to the next, sprinting through tasks, pushing through unanswered emails and phone calls, while simultaneously attending meetings, believing that the more you conquer the more you achieve.
Chances are, while you buzzed your way through your day, you either forgot to eat or grabbed anything you could find and mindlessly chowed down. And, with the holidays here, there’s a good chance you grabbed the latest holiday cookie or donut left in the office kitchen or dipped your hand into the Halloween candy jar that miraculously continues to be refilled far past the October 31st date.
Between the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, combined with the increase in celebration, we often see an over indulgence in food followed by a New Year’s resolution to eat better and lose weight.
But this holiday season, consider practicing mindfulness. If you’re thinking “Mindfulness? I don’t have time for that!” I get it. The good news is I’m here to give you realistic and practical tips because I understand that not all of us have the time (or want to spend the time) reaching our Zen in a quiet dark space for 30+ minutes each day. Mindfulness is all about just being present in the moment. Being more aware of our surroundings, even if those surroundings are noisy and chaotic! When we are mindful we can channel that into all of the decisions we make during the day, such as our food choices.
If you find yourself reaching for food in a moment of stress or haste, stop and take a breath. Literally, take just one moment. It can be as little as 30 seconds. And, before you take a bite, ask yourself first, are you eating out of hunger or are you looking to fill something else? If the answer is the latter try and take another big breath or two, or take a short walk. If you establish that you are in fact hungry, try and consider some of the following steps to eat with mindfulness and intention.
Pay attention to hunger cues. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. If we listen to our body’s signals about hunger, fullness, and appetite, we will know better when to stop eating.
Even when you’re at a party or at the office luncheon be aware of the foods you’re reaching for. Look for whole foods. Build your plate around greens and plant-based options. And be mindful of your portions.
If possible, try and take the time to sit and enjoy a meal. Ideally, you could spend at least 20 minutes with your food but even just 5 or 10 will do. And, try not to let yourself become to ravenously hungry before sitting down to eat.
Try taking three deep breaths before you begin your meal and one deep breath in-between each bite. It’s also important to stop other distractions (close your computer, put away your phone) and just sit in silence or with company and appreciate your food.
The very first step in digestion is the mechanical mastication in the mouth (A.K.A. chewing). If you’re not thinking about it, you probably only chew about 3-10 times before swallowing. You can try to aim for around 25 chews before swallowing. This will likely feel like a lot initially.
As I mentioned before, while chewing each bite of food for 25 times or sitting unplugged for 20 minutes would be ideal, it’s not reality for many of us. Mindful eating is more than just eating slowly. Mindful eating is being aware of what, why, and how you eat. If you’re in a rush and running out the door consider mindful eating to be not how long it takes you to eat but what you’re choosing.
Paying attention to what we’re eating can make a huge difference. It’s the multiple, small instances and mindful approach at every meal that amount to you living and feeling your best.
A really simple and easy on-the-go option is a nutritious shake, such as Vega One™. Vega One is a blend of protein, veggies and greens, vitamins and minerals, fiber, Omega-3 ALA, antioxidants A, C and E and probiotics. And by simply taking 2 minutes of your day to shake it with water or 5 minutes to blend into a smoothie, Vega One allows you to easily get your nutrition on the go and feel good about your choice.
A runner, cooking enthusiast and plant-focused flexitarian, Kim McDevitt has passionately built her career in nutrition. Noticing that her running performances were closely tied to what she was eating, Kim decided to study nutrition and pursue advanced degrees in Dietetics and Public Health, to better understand the power of food in performance. Today, Kim specializes in sports nutrition to enhance athletic performance and focuses on realistic and approachable ways for improving health through educated dietary choices within an active lifestyle.