Your best friend’s daughter is getting married and you dare not miss the wedding. The baby shower for your first grandchild is only a month away. Your office is having a potluck lunch to celebrate the successful completion of a special project. You’ve been invited to a class reunion at a popular “All-You-Can-Eat” restaurant. Social gatherings have one thing in common. Food – tons of unhealthy… and, healthy food! In these social situations, you often eat things that you don’t want because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by not eating, or be the “odd one out”.
Social gatherings and food have been paired together for as long as one can remember. The combination of food and alcohol are the most common complements to social gatherings. While social eating pressure may be greater during special occasions, it is always a challenge to figure out how you can avoid overeating or eating the wrong things when you are among friends, family and lots of food!
What do you do?
There’s no need to worry, attend as many of gatherings as you want, but, just remember to eat mindfully.
Mindful eating is simply being aware of your eating, of your body’s actual hunger signals as opposed to your brain saying “eat all that sugar and fried stuff!”, of your urges to eat more when you’re not hungry, of your “social snacking” even when your stomach is full.
Mindful eating is eating slowly, fully tasting the food, appreciating every bite, being conscious of what you’re putting into your body, savoring but not overdoing.
Social eating is one of my biggest challenges that I constantly work on, and struggle with, at EVERY social gathering.
I have found these three tips – in order – are what work for me at social gatherings, perhaps not all at the same time, but practicing at least one of them every time has helped me control my “eyes are bigger than my stomach” mind and appetite. Eating mindfully forces you to slow down and ask yourself: Why am I eating? Am I really hungry? or, am I eating just because…
1. Check Your Hunger Level
Because all this food is before you, doesn’t mean you have to take something from every dish on the table. Before you fill your plate check in with your hunger scale, ask yourself, how hungry am I, is my stomach empty or full. You may be surprised that you find you’re not as hungry as you thought! Put small portions on your plate, consistent with your hunger level, remember, you can always go back for more food, or, even leave food on your plate when you are finished.
2. Savor Your Food
Slow down your eating and savor the food. Take a moment to really see the food in front of you, to smell the aromas, to let the flavors rest on your tongue before swallowing or picking up that next bite. Mindful eating is not about denying yourself the pleasures of eating; it’s all about enjoying fully whatever we eat. You don’t want to miss out on the flavors; so don’t feel you can’t have that piece of pie or cookie. The key is recognizing that you are making a conscious choice to do that, and then really savoring the experience in all of its richness… without feeling guilty about it. Before the first fork full take a few deep breathes, and pause to savor the food.
Recognizing all that goes into creating a meal is an excellent way to eat mindfully and to experience gratitude for all that’s on the table(s) before you. Remember to stop and give thanks for the many people whose efforts went into providing the meal before you: the farmers who grew our food, the truckers who transported it to the grocery store, the artisans who crafted our plates, the hands that prepared the dishes.
An added bonus for me, is I’ve found that expressing gratitude is a great way to make me happier and less stressed. So, don’t forget to say “thanks.”
There you have it, my three tips to eating mindfully.
Mindful eating is being conscious about what you are eating and why. It is about getting back in touch with the experience of eating and enjoying your food. It’s about remaining in control of what you ingest, and eating whatever you like – in moderation.
Think about it, eating is social, but you don’t need clever techniques to enjoy your food at social gatherings.
Just basic mindful techniques.
For me social gatherings encourage me to fully participate in mindless eating, so I’m consistently on guard.
With practice, you can consciously enjoy all your meals!