I used to be simultaneously excited for the holidays and also terrified. I loved seeing my family – but hated knowing I’d be out of control around the food. Trying (not succeding) at being “good” dominated my holiday.
These days, while I enjoy food, my focus is on having enough time with my family and friends. Finally, it’s not the pumpkin pie. One strategy that’s helped my clients and myself reclaim our love of food (without the guilt) and is most important for this time of year, when eating Grandma’s rich stuffing is the best (and only) food choice, is slow eating.
Regardless of your food choices during the upcoming food bonanza known to many as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Winter Solstice, etc. you can maximize any nutritional decision by starting your meal relaxed and chewing your food more.
Here’s one of the biggest nutrition secrets: you aren’t what you eat. You are what you absorb. About 40% of digestion occurs at the start of a meal. Most people skip this beginning: relaxing the body, taking in the color and smells of your food, and chewing. The result: you cheat yourself of nutrient absorption. You feel this as hunger, bloating and a hankering for “something else”.
Slow eating is crucial to nourishment, metabolic burn, appetite and portion control. One client who slowed down her meal time, making each meal an hour, just emailed me she has lost 2 pounds in 2 weeks changing nothing but her eating pace. She’s still multi-tasking but the hour time-frame supports her in taking smaller bites that are well-chewed.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, embody gratitude by eating slowly. Take in the view that allows you be in awe and wonder of all the time, effort, energy and love that went into the meal by family, farmers and mother nature. (As a bonus, your mind cannot be appreciative and stressed at the same time so you’ll naturally relax – even if your politically opposite Aunt is at the table). Forget measuring your palm or obsessing if your stuffing size is larger than a CD. Portion control comes naturally this way.
Here are three other tips to help bring gratitude and smaller portions to life with your food:
1. Take 5 deep belly breathes in the beginning, middle and end of each meal. This shuts off your fight-or-flight response, enabling you to digest and absorb your food.
2. Use your non-dominant hand to eat. Righties swing left and vice-versa.
3. Imagine you are on a first date. No explanation needed.
To a satisfying Thanksgiving.
Photo by Sixthriver Architects