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Save the Stuffing for the Turkey: Eating Mindfully on Thanksgiving

By Michelle May, M.D.

turkey - hugeThis holiday season, experience maximal pleasure by truly enjoying the wonderful food. By eating mindfully, you’ll enjoy these special holiday meals even more.

The key to mindful 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’re 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? Eating the right amount of food is not about being good but about feeling good. 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 what you 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. 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’re 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 being too stuffed.

Mindful eating is a great way to enjoy Thanksgiving and other meals more while eating less. 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. Ellen says:

    This makes wonderful sense and I will do it! Thanks so much for the tips!

  2. Thanks for reminding us to savor every aspect of this holiday. It’s not really just about the food! This type of mindfulness will lead to an attitude of gratitude that extends far beyond the food on our plates.

  3. Lynn Maynes Ph.D. says:

    I love the stuffing – and I savor every bite that I eat. I rarely eat something I don’t love. Please let me skip those yams!

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