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Human Nutrition, Diet and Health > HNDH Blog > Posts > Mindful Eating During the Holidays

While I was out doing grocery shopping last week I noticed? that the bags of my favorite little chocolate candies were on sale.  At this time of year they are available in red and green and they look so pretty in the candy dish that I always buy them as a part of my holiday decorating tradition.  And it was a two-for-the-price of one deal, so I had to buy two bags, didn’t I?
 
Yes, I opened one bag in the car on the way home.  Even those of us who teach nutrition can only stand so much temptation.  In case you haven’t realized this before, driving while eating little chocolate candies can be hazardous to one’s health because it leads to “mindless eating.”
 
This may have happened to you before when eating candy or chips directly from the bag.  You look down and wonder what happened to the other half of the contents.  You don’t remember eating all that food or even if it tasted good.  This is one reason it is not a good idea to eat while driving, watching TV or movies.  And if you do, take one serving size from the bag and don’t go back to the bag for refills if you are concerned about your weight or your eating habits.

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Mindless vs. Mindful Eating During the Holidays

 
According to Dr. Carolyn Dunn of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, research indicates that we make over 200 food decisions a day without even being aware of doing so.
 
Overlooked food decisions include not only what to eat, but whether to eat, when and how much to eat, what seasonings and condiments to add, etc.  These decisions are influenced by our eating habits, external cues like seeing or smelling food, what our peers are eating, and sometimes just simply by the presence of food…leading to mindless eating.
 
Holidays tend to lead to mindless eating for many of us just because of the constant availability of food – and the foods are not usually fruits and vegetables.  If you are struggling to follow a healthy eating plan to control or prevent chronic disease or lose weight, moving from “mindless” to “mindful” eating can make a big difference in how you relate to food, and can have an impact on weight control.
 
The concept of mindful eating means paying careful attention to what and how much we eat.  So, it would be okay to enjoy a small handful of my favorite little chocolate candies occasionally –but not every day and certainly not half a bag at a time!  Mindful eating means that we have to be aware of situations which trigger overeating or encourage us to eat foods that do not contribute to good health.
 
The period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is referred to as the “pig-out” season by some people.  Whatever you choose to call it, I would encourage you to practice mindful eating during the next few weeks.

According to The Center for Mindful Eating, some of the principles of mindful eating are:
 
·Allow yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom.  Translation:  I knew I should have stopped after a small handful of those candies, but didn’t listen to the little voice that told me to stop.
 
·Choose to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste the food. To demonstrate this principle I once gave the participants in one of my classes a small, individually-wrapped piece of candy at the beginning of the session, but didn’t let them eat it until after the presentation.  Instead of mindlessly eating the candy, they had to look at it during the presentation and imagine how it was going to taste…leading to greater enjoyment of the taste. 
 
·Learn to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decision to begin eating and to stop.  So, eat when you are hungry, eat slowly and stop before you have overeaten.
 
The busiest time of the year is the perfect time to begin practicing mindful eating.  Eat without distractions – avoiding TV, cell phones, computers, reading materials, and other distractions will help.  Eat sitting down, and not while in the car.  Slow down and try to make each meal last at least 20 minutes.  Take time to savor the taste and texture of your foods.
 
As for me, I’m avoiding the candy aisles and especially the sales.

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