Christmas can be an overwhelming time with feelings of uncertainty about how you’re going to manage your performance goals but still enjoy the festive season with friends and family.
This year, instead of worrying about whether it’s okay to have that mince pie with custard AND ice-cream, use some of these strategies to enjoy yourself mindfully over the next few weeks.
Firstly, what is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a form of mindfulness which is the focus of attention and awareness, without judgement, on the present moment. So, when we eat mindfully we are focusing attention and awareness on the foods we are selecting, preparing and consuming without judgement.
Mindful eating can take a while to get the hang of. Like any training, you get better with practice. So why wait until Santa comes? You can apply these principles to any day, meal time or social event.
- Snack! Eating mindfully means that you are not allowing yourself to fast all Christmas morning, so you can fit in a double serving at lunch. Allow yourself to mindfully eat every 3-4 hours during the day. If you know Christmas lunch isn’t going to be served until 3pm and breakfast was at 10am, head off to the kitchen and find yourself a snack to keep yourself topped up. Something like yoghurt and berries would be a good example.
- Listen to your hunger Before a meal ask yourself: how hungry am I? Continue to ask this question throughout the meal too. This is called listening to your hunger cues. What/how much food do you feel you need to satisfy your hunger without under- or over-eating? Once this process of mindfully building your meal becomes habit, you will begin to naturally gravitate towards this way of thinking - including a source of carbohydrate, protein and veggies to meet your body’s nutrient demands. If this thinking doesn’t come naturally at the start, you might need to actively give yourself a prompt to make sure you’re not missing out on any nutrients. Your plate might end up with a few slices of turkey and cranberry sauce, some roasted spuds, honey-glazed carrots, Brussels sprouts and a Yorkshire pudding for example.
- Serve yourself Only you know what you’re going to enjoy. If someone else is carving and serving the turkey, don’t feel rude by being picky, have a look and specify how much you’d like sliced off for yourself so you don’t end up with too much or too little! That goes for the rest of the meal as well. This gives you the opportunity to choose foods which serve your performance goals while still satisfying your tastebuds and appetite.
- Eat slowly and mindfully There are so many distractions at social meal times but where possible focus on enjoying the foods you’ve chosen. If you get engrossed in a conversation, instead of eating and/or drinking at the same time, put your cutlery or glass down and give your attention to the conversation. When you get a chance, return your attention to your meal, enjoying the flavours of every mouthful!
- Appreciate and enjoy the food Be present while you’re eating. Check in with your hunger cues throughout the meal and acknowledge when you’re satisfied. Chances are there will be leftovers around later in the day or another delicious meal to look forward to, so you won’t be missing out if you don’t finish your plate or go back for seconds. If you have been eating mindfully you’ll have enjoyed every mouthful and can be satisfied with the food you have eaten, instead of getting to the end of the meal, uncomfortably full and forgetting how amazing your first mouthful was.
- Lastly, keep hydrated! Find yourself a nice water bottle and carry it around with pride, sipping away to your heart’s content. If you're offered a drink why not ask for a glass of water alongside whatever else you might be drinking. It’s likely you’ll be back training before you know it so maintaining your hydration during a day of celebrations is just as important as any other day.
If that’s all too hard to remember – just PACE yourself:
Pause – take a moment to tune into the process of mindful eating at meal times.
Acknowledge – how hungry you are and what is going to satisfy your appetite.
Choose to be present – be aware of each mouthful, the different flavours and how they make you feel.
Enjoy – that is what food is for!