It is that time again… The festive season is upon us… Meals out, celebratory eating and drinking, the feast of Stephen has turned into the feast of sheer gluttony for some people… I have to say I love it, I love the excess… Yet my marathon training in January will not be enjoying the previous excesses as much… How do we enjoy the revellry and keep things in control during this tempting season?

I have written about mindfulness as a therapuetic tool on many occasions and it applies nicely and comfortably to our eating habits too, so I thought I’d share the notion of eating mindfully with you today. (Incidentally, my ezine article last week was about the NLP healthy eating pattern, do go and check it out if you want even more ways to control eating this year – the article will only be readable for a week from publish date)

People often approach Christmas with the misguided belief that eating large quantities of delicious food will give us a lot of pleasure… I frame my Christmas experience that way too… Unfortunately, food is only pleasurable up until a point. It is a challenge, for all of us, to stop eating before feeling overstuffed, needing to loosen the belt, pop that top button and prior to the joy fading.

In part, it is due to the time delay between eating and your body processing food. You also have to know your body extremely well. Mindful eaters are able to and do anticipate the line between pleasure and stuffed (more so than the turkey) as it is approaching rather than passing it and then realising it and regretting it…

This is not a dietary advice blog entry, no way, not on your nelly… Mindful eating is not about what to eat and what not to eat, no worries about that… I’m not going to tell you to avoid the third helping of raost potatoes, skip the extra-thick gravy and pass up on the custard and brandy butter blobbed on top of your plum duff!

Instead, think for a moment about the way you eat and how it helps or hurts mindful eating. For example, the most common problem with Christmas eating is the timing. Why do we insist that Christmas lunch not be at a usual meal time? For mindless eaters, it is a challenge to readjust your stomach’s internal clock.

Here is a couple of considerations that offer up some basic mindful eating tips to help you eat more mindfully this festive season, and avoid piling on five stone by January and needing some wheels on your running trainers!

Firstly – Ok, so lets get practical… Use that tupperware. Rather than it pile up in corners, use your tupperware… If you overeat because you enjoy good food, you can put the leftovers in your good old tupperware. No need to eat mindlessly if you know that you can savour it again later, eh? You know that is more where that came from now…

Secondly – Sit down: It sounds basic, doesn’t it? But, how many of us take a plate of food and nibble on it until we’ve found a seat? It’s tough to really enjoy food when you are standing up, balancing a plate. Don’t take a bite unless you are sitting down and feel that you can truly savour and enjoy it properly.

Thirdly – Do this right now, while you are reading… Say out loud three of your favourite Christmas foods… It’s very probable that you named foods you only get once (or a couple of times) a year like cranberry sauce, my Unlce David’s Christmas trifle (I cannot wait for that on Boxing day this year!), mince pies or turkey with loads of pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon for non-English folk reading this).

Ok, now that I have stopped drooling… Consider what it is about these foods that give you pleasure.  The texture?  Taste?  Smell?  Focus on the foods you really love. Savour. Consider whether you really enjoy filler foods like baked sausage rolls, or huge wads of french sticks smothered in butter, which are things you can get all year round. Stick to what you know you love and truly savour those special things without cementing them in with tonnes of other stuff.

Fourthly then – Christmas activity… When food is the only event at Christmas, it makes it too easy to mindlessly overeat. It is such a lovely thing to do (at least when the rules are known by everyone so that no family feuds occur!) bring your favourite board game, have some activity, go breathe the Christmas air on a family walk together or do something that does not actually focus on eating or gorging.

Next up – Find ways to soothe and comfort yourself… The Chirstmas period can be exciting and stressful for many of us… Use known or new ways to calm and soothe yourself so you don’t turn to calories for comfort… I am biased, as you know, I think you should all know how to use the full extent of self-hypnosis and use that – heck, my book on the subject makes a fabulous gift! (You didn’t think I’d go without offering up some small plug, did you?)

Sixth nugget – Rethink Christmas… Perhaps we need to change our perception of the festive season before we can change our behaviour. In many ways, those meals we have over those Christmas days are just like any other meal. When isn’t there an abundance of food? So, think of this meal like any others. Seeing Christmas as “different” or “special” seems to imply that there is a different way we eat. Yes, it is a holiday. However, mindful eating is not a diet. You don’t have to avoid good food. It just means eating it slowly, savouring it, knowing when you’ve eaten enough, it is eating with full awareness.

Finally, think of mindless triggers… Things which set you off without you really realising it… It’s likely that you can pinpoint some of your most common mindless eating triggers. Do you tend to pick mindlessly at food when it is sitting directly in front of you? Does eating next to an annoying relative lead you to stress eat? Make a list of things that sabotage your mindful eating and create a strategy to deal with them. For example, pick your favourite person to sit next to and grab the seat. If you tend to pick at food, commit to passing food out of arm’s reach as soon as you sit down.

So I think the motto this year needs to be ‘eat drink and be mindful’ – I think we’ll all appreciate it massively come January!