The end-of-year holidays for many of us are a time to relax, unwind, and enjoy some good company. We tend to eat a lot of rich, high-calorie food and drink more alcohol than we normally would. On occasion, this won’t do much harm, but when we do it repeatedly, as is often the case during the holidays, it can lead to a bigger waistline, an upset stomach, and general feelings of tiredness. Having a good time and eating good food with friends and family can be a much-needed reprieve from all the stresses life throws at us, but if doing so significantly impacts overall health and mental wellbeing, it might be time to look at how to eat and drink differently so that we can still celebrate and indulge without feeling bad afterwards.
Mindful eating and drinking
One way to do this is to apply some mindful eating and drinking tactics. Essentially, this involves paying attention to what you are putting into your body, how and when you are eating and drinking, and how much you are taking in.
A common way to do this is to slow down how fast you eat. This can be done in any number of ways, but some effective ones are to take smaller mouthfuls (think about the size of your tongue) and chew your food more. You can also use a knife and fork, even for food that you can easily pick up and eat with your hands. Also, taking breaks between mouthfuls will slow things down and allow you savour what you just ate. Too often, when we are enjoying food, we eat too much of it at once and too quickly. It sounds counterintuitive, but this reduces how much we can enjoy what we just ate, and it often leads to a belly ache. By reducing the speed and the amount of food we eat, we can experience more of its taste, and it allows our brain and body to catch up with our stomach and let us know when we are full.
Now, regardless of what anyone tells you, it is completely fine and healthy to stop eating when you are full. If you still have food on your plate, great! Get some leftover containers and eat it later. Trying to shovel down more food when you are full is never fun and more often than not leads to discomfort and indigestion. Take care to listen to the signals your body is giving you. If you’re hungry, eat (slowly), if you’re not then don’t.
These principles also apply to drinking alcohol. By sipping your drink and savouring the taste, you can enjoy it more. Also, by going slower, you can more effectively gauge how the alcohol content of the drink is affecting you and stop before you get too drunk. As alcohol is a poison, drinking too much can cause damage to our organs, as well as lead to dehydration due to its diuretic effects. Slowing down and having at least one glass of water per glass of alcoholic drink can help to negate some of these negative effects, all the while still allowing you to enjoy what you are doing.
Most of us will overeat and drink at some point during the holidays. By being more mindful of what and how we are eating and drinking will help to reduce overindulgence. That, and learning to say no when we are full or not hungry and asking others to respect our choice will go a long way towards to looking after our health. It is best to practice these strategies ahead of time, that way healthy habits can begin to take root and reduce the willpower and energy needed to mindfully eat and drink.