Mindful Eating Through the Holidays: The Antidote to Gluttony

November 28, 2010

I’m willing to be that we all over did it on Thanksgiving. The line between gratitude and gluttony can be as thin as a razor’s edge, and just as dangerous.

Mindfulness offers us a set of skills and practices to combat gluttony and to move through the rest of the holiday season with enjoyment and restraint — without a sense of deprivation.

To be mindful we bring our full attention to whatever we are doing in the moment — the activity, and the sights, sounds, sensations, smells, and tastes of now. Eating provides a rich array of sensory perceptions for us to pay attention to. But we are often, almost always I would venture, multitasking when we eat. We eat and talk; we eat and watch TV, we eat and sit at the computer; we eat and drive. We rarely just eat — just give our full attention to eating.

You might want to try this, starting with a snack. Just give it your full attention. Notice what the food looks like, what is sounds like, what it feels like to your fingers and your tongue, what it smells like, and, of course, what it tastes like. Whenever thoughts about the future or past arise come back to one of these senses; whenever an opinion or story about the food arises come back to how it feels to be eating. Really notice what comprises the eating experience — it might surprise you!

When we give our full attention to eating we get more from it — more sensory nourishment, more sense of gratification. If we eat mindfully in this way, we tend to eat slower and when we eat slower our stomach has a chance to signal our brain that we are full before we have eaten too much.

Here are some practical suggestions:

  1. Pause before you eat. Take a moment to reflect on all the events that took place to get this food to your table — growing the food, harvesting the food, transporting the food, cooking, etc. We take our food for granted but we are fortunate to have this food and it comes from an interconnected web of weather and all life on the planet — humans, animals, plants, microorganisms.
  2. Give your exclusive, or near exclusive attention to eating as described above. Keep coming back to the sensory qualities of the experience when your mind wanders.
  3. Take a modest spoonful or forkful and then place your spoon or fork down on the table until you have finished chewing your food.
  4. Pay attention to your body and listen for the “I’m full” signal. Since you have given a fuller attention to the experience of eating you are less likely to feel deprived if you don’t eat more. The food you have eaten is richer, more satisfying.
  5. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too.
  6. Enjoy yourself! Eating is a wonderful pleasure and one that sustains us and gives us an opportunity to live a mindful life.

For more information on mindfulness and additional guided practices, visit my website Exquisite Mind. The complete CD 1, CD2, CD3, and CD4 are now available for listening and download, free. Visit here for a guided breathing and body scan meditationwalking and standing and standing yoga, and mindful yoga; mind scan and emptiness practices.

Arnie Kozak, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, meditation instructor, and author of Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness(Wisdom, 2009). He also the founder of the Exquisite Mind in Burlington,Vermont and writes a daily blog entitled Mindfulness Matters: Tools for Living Now! You can practice mindfulness meditation with Arnie every Friday morning from 8:00 to 8:45 (EST) in the eMindful.com online classroom. To login into this free meditation, click here.

As an expert in stress reduction, wellness, and mindfulness, Arnie will present weekly practical wisdom for transforming stress. His award-winning writing will help you to lead a richer and happier life.

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