Mindful Eating During the Holidays


Homemade Turkey Thanksgiving DinnerThanksgiving is around the corner, and many students will be traveling home for the holidays. While some find comfort visiting home, others can find it stressful, especially when it comes to food. For example, your mom is baking your favorite chocolate smothered cookies, grandma is bringing her famous butter laden stuffing to Thanksgiving, and your hometown friends have invited you to attend a festive potluck dinner to catch up. All of this can cause mixed feelings if you are worried about food. However, learning to eat mindfully combats some of these confusing emotions. This holiday season, practice mindful eating to create a healthier relationship with food.

The roots of mindful eating exist within Buddhist teachings. These Buddhist teachers encourage their students to meditate with food and expand their conscience by literally enjoying and focusing on every morsel. In some of the Buddhist exercises, students spend twenty minutes eating three raisins. While this might sound tedious to you, it is actually a beneficial exercise.Beautiful woman holding hot fresh smelling oat cookies with clos

Picture this: you just made your favorite lemon chicken with grilled peppers and a perfectly baked sweet potato. While it may take all the effort in the world not to plow through the meal faster than the Cookie Monster, mindful eating requires that you to tune into your meal and think about what you are eating. This means savoring the flavor, thinking about the textures, smelling the aromas, and maybe hardest of all, putting away technology. These practices channel all of your senses during meal times and allow you to appreciate your delicious feast.

Not only does mindful eating involve multiple senses, it includes your mental states and emotions as well. Mindful eating encourages you to consume your meals slowly and solely focus on the food you are eating. After the first bite, put your fork down and assess your feelings. Are you eating because you’re hungry, because you’re sad, or because you’re excited? Is this meal a traditional meal that has sentimental value or are you eating it for convenience? When you begin pondering these seemingly easy questions, you start to create a healthier relationship with food, allowing you to enjoy your food completely.

IMG_0328Notably important as well, mindful eating does not mean limiting foods or going on diets. It is about experiencing food more intensely, focusing on its pleasure, becoming more aware of what you are eating, and listening to your hunger cues, Very rarely do people ever sit down for a quiet meal and actually think about the food they are eating or why they are eating it. Simply, mindful eating is meant to wake you and enable you to love your food.

Even though going home for the holidays can be a relaxing break from the business of school, eating at home can be stressful for some, particularly if you are concerned about calories, fat or carbohydrate grams. Instead of feeling anxious, though, try eating mindfully to develop healthy eating habits and true relationships with food. It takes some effort, but mindful eating is a beneficial practice you can learn to love just as much as your food.

Michelle Baker is a junior at the University of Dayton majoring in Dietetics, with an emphasis in sports nutrition. She plans to become a Registered Sports Dietitian.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, FBM

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