As the holidays ramp up we’re just moments away from the dreaded/delicious culinary decadence vortex: a busy calendar means more wine or cocktails at social and work gatherings, overindulging in brunches, lunches and dinners with family and friends. Pies, cakes, holiday cookies, gravy, roasts, and a cornucopia of veggie and grain side dishes each more incredible than the next, and all too wonderful to pass up.
I might have put on five pounds just writing that paragraph!
It’s the same cycle every year, and changing recipes to “low fat” versions of everything is just as ridiculous as trying to play hermit and hideout fasting until the whirlwind is over. Worse yet would be to enjoy everything in the moment, only to wallow in guilt and remorse later.
So what are we to do?
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has some advice, in the form of a small, simple and highly practical book aptly titled HOW TO EAT.
Bringing our mindfulness practice to our dining table (or office party or family gathering) is a powerful tool for not only truly enjoying the abundance of the season, but also staying balanced nutritionally and where weight is concerned. The simple tips shared in the book encourage “a joyful and sustainable relationship with all aspects of eating.” Meaning we can absolutely say yes to dessert, just so long as we pledge to actually enjoy it. This means, slowing down, tuning in, chewing and actually savoring each bite before we load the fork up for our next mouthful.
Scientific research is now revealing the effect of mindful eating on obesity and binge eating disorders. The results of this practice include not just enjoying each bite more, but supporting healthy digestion and cultivating an awareness of your levels of satiation – all of which also leads to portion control and maintaining a balanced weight. Simply by using the power of your attention.
You can click here for a little “taste” of the book, and also to purchase. The book also makes a sweet stocking suffer or hostess present – the type of gift that keeps on giving.
I recommend getting the book and savoring each usable piece of advice. And in the meantime, here are some simple tips:
Mindful eating is a before ~ during ~ & after process.
A process of tuning in.
Before, we can tune into the efforts of the chefs or bartenders, the efforts of the farmers and grocers and bakers who contributed their energies into the forthcoming morsel. The efforts of the soil and sun and water that all conspired to facilitate your nourishment. If we’re cooking we can make the kitchen into a meditation room, cook without rushing and cook with love. We can thoughtfully set the table, supporting enjoyment for all those who will sit at it.
During we can chew and enjoy, tuning into the dance of flavors and activating our healthy digestive process at the same time. According to Thich Nhat Hanh we can let ourselves pay attention to two things: “the food that we’re eating and the friends who are sitting around us and eating with us. This is called mindfulness of food and mindfulness of community… true community building.” The good news is our powerful multi-tasking brains can listen to what’s being said around the table while also tuning into what’s happening on our plate, on our fork and in our mouth. Give it a try and I’m sure you’ll find you’re able to enjoy what you’re eating even as you listen to your tipsy cousin recount an embarrassing story for the third year in a row. We can sit down – turn off the radio or TV – and tune into our body’s signals. This will help us feel when we’ve had enough.
After a meal we can once again remember gratitude, and allow the body to be nourished by the nutrients in the food and the energy of our company. We can take some time to “rest and digest” so our systems can properly absorb and assimilate what’s just happened, before rushing to our next meal or engagement and overly taxing the system. We can even think of the act of doing the dishes as a meditation, a pause for digestion and appreciation.
Bringing mindfulness into the decadent deliciousness of holiday season is a way to keep your yoga practice going “off the mat” and truly continue to live a yogic lifestyle.