Mindful Eating Over Christmas

By Lucia Colla

With the festive season well and truly upon us and the big day not far away, the pressure on eating is at its highest. Christmas Day can overwhelm the senses and we can quickly become absorbed by the endless supply of food and drink. A relatively new approach to eating (and to this festive season tendency!) is called ‘Mindful Eating’, and stems from the practice of being Mindful. Ultimately, it attempts to change the way you think about the eating process.

The Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria

describes being mindful as the focus of attention and directing awareness to the present moment. They suggest that Mindful Eating put simply is the opposite of mindless eating. Mindful eating over is about being aware of what you are eating and how your body feels. It isn’t about telling you what you can or cannot eat; it is about eating foods that you enjoy in a different way.

Picture yourself at the Christmas table. It is crammed full of Christmas treats of both the sweet and savoury kind, with so many plates and bowls that there is always that chance that something is going to spill off the edge. At this point, a few things might take over. You may have allowed yourself to get too hungry, and so eat too fast. You may continue eating despite no longer being hungry, neglecting to listen to what your body signals are telling you. The emotions that come with Christmas may be unconsciously causing you to overindulge, for whatever reason. The consequences lie in the sick, uncomfortable feeling that lingers for the remainder of the day and the ill effects to your body which occur over the next few days and into the New Year.

This is not an abnormal or unfamiliar situation. Many of us consume without thinking about how we are eating. This is where Mindful Eating comes in. Mindful Eating can assist you to be aware of food preparation and consumption, acknowledging your response to food without judgement, being aware of physical hunger cues, and identify triggers for mindless eating.

To help you with Mindful Eating over this Christmas time, we are suggesting a few handy tips:

  1. Eat small or moderate amounts of food every 2-3 hours. Have some fruit when you wake up in the morning and whilst opening presents. Don’t save yourself for that huge lunch so that you end up over-eating when that time comes!
  2. Before eating ask yourself a few basic questions – how hungry am I, how thirsty am I, what am I going to eat so that I can taste a range of things without overdoing it.
  3. Set yourself up with a nice plate to eat and arrange it nicely on the plate. Ensure that you are sitting down and not standing or walking around.
  4. Be in the present before you start to eat. Take 3 deep breaths.
  5. Eat slowly. Pay attention to the smell, taste, sound, texture and look of the food. This will help you to appreciate what you are eating, and not to mindlessly consume.
  6. Put utensils or food down between mouthfuls. Pace yourself.
  7. Every few minutes check in with your hunger signals. It can be hard to tell when you are satisfied if you are not taking the time to think and pay attention to your body cues.
  8. Enjoy your meal! If you don’t enjoy eating you will never be satisfied.

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About the Author

Lucia is a provisional psychologist training to complete her Doctor of Health Psychology at Deakin University. She is currently working in an administrative role at the Health Psychology Centre.

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