No matter what the time of year practicing ‘the art of moderation’ doesn’t have to be difficult. The key to moderate living isn’t deprivation, saying no or ‘trying to be good’, it’s striking a balance between foods that give you pleasure and foods that pack a nutritional punch. If eating mindfully and moderately is new to you, the party season may not be the right time to make a change. When you are feeling ready to start making some changes try these 5 simple tips to get you started on the path to developing a better attitude to food.
1: Eat mindfully:
We have all eaten a little too much at social occasion before, often because we pay less attention to the food and are more focussed on socialising; this can lead to eating (and drinking!) to the point of excess. Social eating can still be joyful but by asking yourself a simple question first you might just avoid becoming uncomfortably full or feeling guilty about your food choices. Ask yourself “How hungry am I?” be honest, then plan how much you want to eat but don’t deny yourself or leave yourself feeling hungry. Ask that question again between courses or trips to the buffet table and remember to only eat as much as you feel hungry for.
2: Don’t deprive yourself:
Denying yourself foods that give you pleasure may work in the short term but usually it only leads to over indulgence in these ‘forbidden foods’ as soon as you relax the rules. Avoid the all or nothing approach by allowing yourself to mindfully eat the foods you love.
3: Understand your hunger signals:
Many of us fail to recognise when we are truly hungry and may have spent a long time ignoring our natural indicators of hunger. We often eat habitually and forget to consider “am I actually hungry?” If this is you, start by trying to identify some physical indicators of hunger such as ‘rumbling stomach’, feeling weak or tired. It is important to respond to these signals as leaving it too long will lead to low blood sugar which can impair your judgement and makes choosing foods your body really wants more difficult. Low blood sugar means you are ‘past the point of hunger’ and it will have you reaching for the quick fixes which are often laden with sugars and fat. For those of you that don’t eat at regular intervals the best way to start learning about your hunger signals is to begin an eating routine. Eating regularly will help you isolate what hunger really feels like; try to observe how your body feels before each meal and how much you enjoy the food. If you are out of touch with your bodies natural signals it may take some time to relearn them so be patient and keep trying.
4: Slow down!:
Life can be pretty hectic and sometimes proper mealtimes can be sacrificed at the expense of getting more done. If you are eating too quickly you may not realise when you are full; your body will need some time to recognise that your appetite is sated and your stomach has reached capacity. Overriding or missing this ‘full signal” leads to eating too much and in the long run this can have a negative impact on your health. Take the time to enjoy your food, pay attention to the different flavours and textures and avoid mindless, distracted and hurried eating.
5: Plan ahead:
If the festive season means lots of parties and meals out don’t avoid the foods you love, simply plan for the rest of your meals instead. Moderation is about striking the balance; make food choices that focus on your nutritional needs for the majority of the day and enjoy the foods that give you pleasure on your night out! Don’t get hung up on what you think you should be eating instead try listening to what your body is asking for. Being mindful in your approach to eating can help you to view food differently; removing restrictive rules and taking away guilt opens you up to a world of flavour and pleasure.