While you might be all about moderation and finding new ways to have a healthy and balanced Thanksgiving, you may still be wondering — what is mindful eating? Mindful eating is a method of focusing on what you’re eating, how you’re eating and how it makes your mind and body feel.
It’s about listening to yourself and giving your body what it needs as you take time to enjoy your meals in the present moment. Mindful eating is not a diet, weight loss trick or easy life hack. It’s simply a way to become healthier in your own body.
You may already know how to practice mindful eating — maybe you already have a mindfulness practice that involves your relationship with food. However, taking mindful eating into a social setting can pose a few challenges, especially during Thanksgiving.
Mindful eating may be a bit different at the Thanksgiving table than your average night in, but you may find it’s just as rewarding. Whether you’re a brand-new mindful eater or have experience with the method, there are a few things you can keep in mind as you bask in abundance and gratitude this year:
1. Pay Attention When You Fill Your Plate
While mindful eating is all about attending to your plate throughout the meal, Thanksgiving might not be the optimal setting for that practice. While Thanksgiving offers a delicious spread of food, the holiday itself is about spending time with friends and family.
Engaging with those around you doesn’t mean you’re failing at mindfulness. However, if you’re looking to be mindful of the food itself, do so as you fill your plate. Think about how hungry you are, which foods taste the best and how much space you have to create your dream plate.
2. Check In With Your Body
At its core, mindful eating is about how the food you eat makes you feel from the inside out. While Thanksgiving is a special occasion, there’s a careful balance between overeating and enjoying yourself. Studies show that too much junk food can negatively impact mental and physical health, so take note of how you feel while you eat. Take moments to check in with your body and mind throughout the meal so you can be present both with yourself and with the events all around you.
3. Be Present With Loved Ones
One of the best ways to be mindful in any social situation is to focus on the people around you. Let yourself get swept into conversations, stories and jokes. Have a good time with your loved ones. Trying to laser-focus on your meal will probably make you miss out on what makes Thanksgiving so great. Put your phone away, relax and ease into the moment. Find your balance, and you’ll quickly learn how to practice mindful eating effectively.
4. Treat Yourself While Mindfully Eating
Although you should be mindful of how certain foods make you feel, Thanksgiving is a time to treat yourself a bit. Eating mindfully is about remaining present and enjoying the meal in front of you, which involves the food’s taste, too. Mindful eating is not a diet. And although you can lose weight through mindful eating, it isn’t there to restrict you from foods or larger portions.
Have a slice of pie or an extra helping of potatoes if you know you want it — and make sure you’re present in enjoying every bite.
5. Remember Your Gratitude
Thanksgiving is first and foremost a day of gratitude, so make sure you keep that in your sights. As you eat, you can reflect on your gratitude for the food you get to enjoy, your loved ones and all facets of your life that make the day possible. Engage in conversations about gratitude with the people you know and love.
Share what you’re grateful for and encourage others to do the same. Gratitude is a fantastic mindfulness practice that keeps you centered both in yourself and in your surroundings.
6. Create a No-Judgment Zone
Mindfulness and mindful eating are all about being nonjudgmental as you experience all the surrounding sensations. While it can sometimes be easy to judge yourself for what you choose to eat — or even what you don’t eat — mindfulness is about focusing on the present. It involves concentrating on how you feel and doing what’s right for you.
If that means you get seconds, so be it. If that means you don’t clear your plate completely, that’s okay too. Thanksgiving is not the time to judge yourself based on how or what you eat. By trying this technique on Thanksgiving, you may even find some great practice for incorporating it into the rest of your life going forward.
Grateful, Happy, Mindful Eating
While mindful eating on Thanksgiving might be a new experience no matter your background, it could be a great way to find balance and comfort this holiday season. Mindful eating isn’t about dieting or restriction — it’s about listening to yourself, living in the moment and showing gratitude for all you have. Really, what could put you into a more grateful headspace?