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Save the Stuffing for the Turkey: Eat Mindfully Instead

By Michelle May, M.D.

This holiday season, experience maximal pleasure from all the wonderful food and special occasions. By eating mindfully, you’ll enjoy it more. Read on for tips about mindful eating throughout the holidays.

Mindful Holiday Eating

Senior Man Excitedly Getting Ready To Carve The TurkeyThe key to mindful holiday eating is to notice the details. Pretend you’re writing an article about your Thanksgiving or other holiday meal for a gourmet magazine. The following tips are from Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle

  • Focus on the people you are sharing your meal with. Engage in interesting conversations. Ask questions and really listen to your companions.
  • Notice how hungry you are. If you aren’t hungry yet, become aware of the reasons you feel like eating anyway. If it’s for social reasons, then be social for awhile longer, then eat when you get hungry.
  • Decide how you want to feel when you’re done eating. Stuffed and miserable? Or comfortable and content? Fill your plate or order accordingly.
  • Mentally describe the table setting and the ambiance. Notice the aromas, colors, textures, and presentation of the meal.
  • Before eating, take a moment to be truly thankful about where your food came from, including all the people who invested their time, effort, and talent to get it from farm to plate.
  • Choose food carefully by asking yourself what you want and need. Don’t waste your appetite on cranberry sauce shaped like a can if you don’t love it!
  • Put one small bite in your mouth. You only have taste buds on your tongue so the flavors of a large bite of food are lost on your teeth, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth.
  • Notice the texture and flavors of the food on your tongue then slowly begin to chew it. Breathe since flavors other than salty, sweet, bitter and sour actually come from the aromas.
  • Set your fork down between bites. If you begin to load your next forkful your attention will be on the next bite, not the one you are eating now. And if you are focused on the next bite of food instead of the one you are eating, you won’t stop eating until there are no more forkfuls.
  • Sit for a moment and let the flavors and experience linger before you take the next bite.
  • Notice as the food gently fills your stomach. Pause for several minutes in the middle of eating to reconnect with your hunger and fullness levels and enjoyment of the meal.
  • Food is abundant this time of year – actually all year for many of us. Remind yourself that you can eat more later or at another meal so there’s no need to eat it all now and ruin the experience by feeling stuffed.

Mindful eating is a great way to enjoy Thanksgiving and other meals more. You’ll be thankful that you did!

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About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

3 Comments

  1. Martha says:

    Great pre-holiday advice for all of us! As a former yo-yo dieter, food lover, yoga teacher and healthy weight loss coach, I love your message. Everything began to change for me when I took the mindfulness I learned in yoga and began applying it to my relationship with food! It is so empowering to step away from the insanity of dieting and begin sharing the message that it is possible to eat what you love and love what you eat with the world.

  2. joi tydings says:

    I was going to eat whatever and how much I wanted. I am thin and in control most of the time. My husband and I were having a conversation about what “normal” people do on Thanksgiving. He made the comment about how people stuffed themselves at Thanksgiving and we were thinking that was normal for the Holiday. Now writing this I realize about 67% of the population is over weight so maybe we don’t know about what the “normal” people do at Thanksgiving. I will heed the suggestions by Dr. May, who has changed my life and I am so so thankful at this Thanksgiving!

  3. These tips are very helpful especially since most of us just eat leisurely at wits end during holidays and occasions. Thanks for this wonderful post!

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