I teach what I need.
When I teach mindful eating, I often say mindful eating is a lifetime practice. That may feel daunting to hear, but my personal experience tells me that it’s true.
At this time of year, my mindful eating practice always requires some extra care and attention. Amongst my family and close friends, there are 10 birthdays to celebrate within a few months and preceding and after the prime holiday season.
Mindful eating is the practice of returning to the experience of tasting, savoring, breathing, and resting, over and over. Practicing mindful eating helps me to focus on what my body and spirit really need. It helps me to differentiate when it is supportive to eat, and when food is not what my spirit is in need of.
Food can provide pleasure and nourishment, but it cannot meet our needs for connection, contentment, or emotional expression. What mindful eating can do is help us balance pleasure with our health and emotional well-being.
And the holidays are coming!
Hopefully, this holiday season will allow for more gatherings than last year and yet we continue to contend with the stress of the ongoing pandemic and all its ripples. If like me, you have been feeling a bit edgy, it’s imperative to lean on your mindfulness practice to create resilience. I have been a long-time mindful and intuitive eater, and at times like this, I need a little extra support to eat in a way that honors my body, my health, and my happiness.
Mindful, intuitive eaters don’t eat mindfully all of the time.
My “mindless eater” is more likely to show up craving between-meal-snacks, especially in the evening. When I am aware of urges for mindless snacking, I place a sticky note on the food package or storage container with the inquiry, “How much of this food does your body want?” This gentle inquiry is a cue to turn inward and contemplate: 1.) Is food what I am in need of? and 2.) If I choose to eat, how much is supportive for my body at the moment?
Another support I implement is placing my BASICS of Mindful Eating table tent back on the table to be reminded at mealtimes to breathe and check in with the food and my body while eating. The BASICS, created by Lynn Rossy, are a set of mindful eating guidelines and a core teaching component in our mindful eating classes.
Awareness and compassion, not punishment
After eating an amount, or in a way, that is not congruent with my desire to eat mindfully, I practice self-compassion. When I notice my head feeling a bit foggy from too many sweets, or my body a bit fluffy from a bit too much sodium, I note how it feels in my body, and I inquire as to what may have led to mindless eating. Knowing from plenty of past experience that self-criticism fuels more mindless eating, approaching this contemplation with kindness and compassion is key.
Connecting with the present-moment experience
The stressful holiday season combined with the abundance of seasonal food creates understandable challenges for eating in a way that honors our health and well-being. There are so many distractions—external and internal—that pull us away from the experience of just tasting and enjoying our food. But we can train our attention back to our immediate bodily experience and make empowered choices in the moment.
Rather than mindlessly making your way through the holiday season and waking up after the first of the year to start another diet, consider bringing some mindful eating practices to your holiday gatherings.
Join me for the Mindful Eating for the Holidays online workshop on Saturday, November 20th. This workshop is appropriate for any beginner and will be good practice and additional support for those who have experience in mindfulness or mindful eating. This interactive, experiential workshop will include mindful eating, mindful movement, and self-compassion practices. Participants will receive a holiday mindful eating tip sheet, your own visual reminder of the BASICS, and guided meditation recordings to support you into the new year and beyond. Or look ahead to the 5-week Mindful & Intuitive Eating class beginning February 1st.
May you care for yourself with JOY this holiday season,
Lori Schermers is a Registered Dietitian who helps people eat well, eat mindfully, and be healthy at any size.