With the holiday season around the corner and faced with the abundance of food wherever we go, most people are gearing up for weeks of overeating and drinking. While indulging in your favourite foods during this season is certainly recommended and a healthy and exciting part of social life, you can do this without compromising your health goals and packing on the pounds.
Firstly, it will be far easier to eat and drink less over the festive season than regretting and trying to work it off in the New Year. Prevention is far better than cure. Recent research has shown that the danger zone times of overeating, such as Christmas and New Year, often result in small fat gains which account for the majority of our weight gains year after year. Overeating is simply the cause of these fat gains, and exercise is unlikely to counteract the problem. Faced with plenty of delicious food to eat and poor motivation to exercise or move your body, only the most diligent people would be able to maintain their weight during this season. So how can we overcome this seemingly impossible feat?
Image - Holiday splurging can accumulate year after year.
The solution is simple as changing your focus.
Firstly know that restricting or completely saying no to your favourite foods, or viewing it as a ‘BAD’ food that needs to be avoided can actually be counterproductive. Our self-control is actually a limited resource, and you are most likely to give in sooner than later and there is no stopping your next binge after that.
Instead, start savouring, rather than, gorging food. This is a concept called mindful eating and it involves putting emphasis on slowing down and enjoying & relishing the food, without any judgement. There is nothing wrong with having an indulgence now and then. No food is good or bad, and while some food can provide more nutrients to the body, others provide nourishment to our souls through pleasure. However, having a better
understanding of how our body our feels when we are hungry or full and learning when to stop eating would be much more effective at preventing overeating and weight gain and eating the perfect amount for our bodies.
Image - The point of mindful eating is to savour, not gorge
Here are 3 techniques on how to eat mindfully:
Firstly, slow down the pace of your eating. The food isn’t going anywhere!
It actually takes 20 minutes for our blood sugar to respond to eating, and it is this rise in blood sugar that tells our brain we’ve had enough food. Unfortunately, it’s possible to eat a very large amount of food in 20 minutes, especially when eating mindlessly.
Be more aware of when you are hungry and when you are full.
Hunger should be the primary reason that you decide to eat, not stress, depression or boredom. You can always wait till you are a bit hungrier before you eat so you can enjoy your food much more.
Pay attention to the change in taste of the food.
We often ignore the subtle change in how much we are enjoying the taste of the foods as we eat, a signal called the “taste specific satiety” or TSS. Our taste buds are chemical sensors that tire quickly. This means that the first few bites of a food taste better than the next few bites. And after eating a large amount, we may have very little taste experience left at all. What we experience at that point is likely to be memory traces of those first bites. Many people will keep on eating in order to get back the intense flavour of the first few bites, but this is impossible to do.
Some other quick tips, besides mindful eating:
Keep an eye out for sugary drinks, a popular indulgence over the festive period, as they can easily add empty calories to your diet.
Don’t skip meals in order to allow for “extra calories later.” If you are ravenous at a buffet or dinner party you are much more likely to overeat and consume more calories than 3 of your regular meals combined!
Always serve a small amount of food and reach for more if you are still hungry.
The good news is by learning how to enjoy food mindfully, most people find they can just eat the right amount without the urge to binge.
For those who are so used to restricting and then overeating or caught up in the diet cycle, it might be much harder to start eating mindfully and develop a healthy & confident relationship with food. If you are one of those people, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a professional Registered Dietitian to support you.