It’s not easy to eat mindfully during the holidays! The good news is that it is possible. Here are a few simple psychological tips that can help you avoid overeating while still mindfully eating the foods you love.
- Take a complete tour of the buffet: According to new research out of Cornell University, the first three items in a buffet line are likely to make up 65% of your plate just because you see them first. This leaves little room for things you may really want and makes a second helping more likely. Cut down on overeating and promote mindful eating by doing a tour of the entire buffet before you fill your plate. If you set up the holiday buffet, place the healthy items in the first three spots in the line—people will be more likely to eat them!
- Give yourself a hand: At holiday parties, eat with your non-dominant hand. If you are right handed, eat with your fork in your left hand. This will help you slow down while eating your favorite holiday foods. Research indicates that this simple action can reduce caloric intake by 30%.
- Make a fist. New research called, “embodied cognition,” states that you can use the position of our bodies to help emphasize and shape what you think. You are more likely to stop talking or slow down if you are gesturing “stop” with your hands while you talk. When you want to turn down extra holiday treats, think “no” and make a fist. Making a fist is the action you make when you are refusing. Making a fist + Thinking No = Saying No to Food.
- Focus: Don’t multitask while you eat. Put aside the holiday to-do list and just focus on your eating! Turn off the TV and stop wrapping gifts. Your motto and mantra: When you eat, just eat.
- Mindfully delay: Keep your pocket full of sugar-free peppermints. Research indicates that peppermint can help to curb appetite. You can also use it to help pass time between a first and second helping. Make a deal with yourself. Don’t get a second helping until the peppermint dissolves completely in your mouth. You will find the craving for more will pass by the time it dissolves. If you still want more then, go for it. This action helps slow down the kneejerk reaction for more.
- Eat your favorite food last. A recent study in the journal Appetite suggests that you remember the last bit of food you eat the best. This prevents you from eating more later because the experience is still fresh in your mind.
- Take a brisk walk. No need to sweat or do intense cardio to avoid holiday overeating. A 2012 study in the journal of Appetite indicated that a brisk walk reduces chocolate intake for those who love chocolate. Turn on an audiobook or podcast and you’ll likely walk past the 20-minute mark. The good news? Walking can also reduce your cortisol level, which can ultimately prevent holiday comfort and stress eating.
- Sit down when you eat: A recent study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people eat 5 percent more when they stand and eat. Standing causes a lot of distraction. It’s okay to eat holiday treats like pumpkin pie and sugar cookies—just do it mindfully to avoid overeating. Use the 5 S’s of mindful eating—sit down, savor, slowly chew, stay in the moment with a deep breath and smile (the smile helps you to pause for a moment as you decide if you want another bite or not).