Mindful Eating Through The Holidays

Contributed by Winona Benson, Nourished Health Coaching Services

Christmas Salad Wreath

Christmas Salad Wreath

Celebrations and holidays are always surrounded by favorite foods. Mom’s famous pies, Grandma’s sweet potatoes and Dad’s juicy deep-fried turkey. Sound familiar? It’s often hard to resist eating more than we should!

Did you know that the average person gains approximately five pounds during the last two months of every year? Unfortunately, the eating habits we practice during the holidays often set us up for a pattern of overeating and cravings for months after the holidays too.

So how do we do things differently and still have an enjoyable holiday?  Willpower just isn’t enough!  

When it comes to eating, people often make choices to overeat based on much more than hunger.  A study was conducted by a professor from Cornell University that was called the, “Stale Popcorn Test”. In this test, stale popcorn was given to moviegoers who had just eaten dinner within 20 minutes of arriving at the theater. The test was given to see if people would eat a stale food even though they were not hungry. Some people were given medium bags and some people were given large bags – all were given the stale popcorn. The people given the large bags ate 34% more popcorn than the people given the medium bags. When asked if they thought the size of the bags made a difference, the participants did not think it did. 

Another study was conducted where a group of secretaries were being awarded for doing great work throughout the year. The secretaries were awarded with all the candy they could eat in a month. The candies were strategically placed either, right on their desks or six feet from their desks in either a clear or an opaque bowl. Every day the candy dishes were re-filled. On the desks where the candy was in a clear bowl, the typical consumption of candies in a single day was about eleven Hershey’s kisses, which is about 283 calories. If the candies were in an opaque bowl, the consumption was about nine kisses. When the candy bowls were placed six feet away from the desk, the daily consumption was reduced to four candies. If this pattern of eating were to continue throughout the year, it could lead to a 30-40 pound weight gain in a year!

Often when food is left out, more is consumed as well. In one study, it was shown that men eat about 30% more food if the serving dish is put on the table, and women eat 10% more. The primary reason for this was that men ate the food so much faster. They didn’t allow their stomach time to send the message to their brain that they were full. They often went back for seconds and even thirds. Women generally ate slower and did not go back for seconds as often.

Other cues can trigger people to overeat too – larger plates, larger serving bowls, all you can eat invitations, low-fat versions of foods and our environments. If we are being bombarded with external noises like the television, our phones, text messages and loud environments, our “mindfulness” is not much of a source of power. 

One of the best things we can do is to set our environment up for success. Here are a few tips to help make your holiday events a little healthier:
•    Use a smaller plate: a 9-10 inch plate can help you to eat 22% less food than on a larger platter. 
•    Make the healthy foods the “star of the table”: Put your vegetables and salads in the largest serving dishes so the eyes send the message to the brain what foods you see and focus in on first. If you are dishing up the food for serving, put the healthy foods on the table where the eating is taking place and leave the other foods on the counter. 
•    Use smaller serving bowls and smaller serving spoons: A larger spoon often leads to larger portions. A person generally eats 50% more food when a large serving spoon is used. 
•    Eat slowly, and chew your food: Try to chew your food until there are no large pieces left in your mouth.
•    Turn off your environmental noises, like the television and electronics: Families that engage in positive conversation generally eat slower and enjoy their food more.  
•    After eating, put the food away in the refrigerator: Not only will this prevent “grazing”, but it also keeps your food safe from bacteria that could cause food-borne illness. Foods that are left at room temperature for two hours or more are not considered safe to eat due to the rate that bacteria can grow above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 
•    Make your conversation, your friends and family and your time with loved ones the focus of the holiday – not the food: After all, the food is for fuel and nourishment. Family is for life, fun and enjoyment!

If you would like to learn more about making healthy choices, give me a call at 907-982-9933, and we can set up a health consultation. I believe that we all have the right to a happy, healthy and well-balanced life! The journey to health with Nourished is one filled with support, guidance, nutritional information and accountability.  

I wish you the happiest of holidays!