Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and for many, can be a day of indulgence. Whether it is the cookies, candy, cupcakes, chocolate, or that savoury dish at dinner, Valentine’s Day, like many holidays can be centred around food and wine.
Have you ever been culprit to eating a handful of candy hearts from a bowl set out on your counter every time you walk by? Or scarfed down a cupcake one of your co-workers brought into work because it looked so delicious? If you have, you were probably falling victim to eating mindlessly and ignoring your internal cues.
Mindful eating, on the other hand, is a topic of interest for many people right now with the main idea focusing more on how you eat, rather than what you eat. It involves using all of your senses to enjoy food, and being fully present (in both body and mind) in the eating experience.
Can we really have our cake and eat it too? Is there a way where we could actually enjoy what we eat?
Along with increased satisfaction from food, mindful eating has been shown to have benefits. For example, it can help to create a healthier relationship with food and has also been used as a strategy to help with weight management.
Here are 9 tips that you can use to eat mindfully this Valentine Day:
Make healthy eating the easy choice. You are more likely to eat the sweet treats if they are in your home and easy to grab. This is also true for fruits and vegetables! Swapping the bowl of cinnamon hearts or box of chocolates on your counter for a bowl of red-colored fruit can make the healthy choice the easy choice.
Remove distractions. Being distracted while eating has been shown to disrupt the ability to assess satiety cues and often leads to overeating. Although your day might be busy, or filled with celebrations, try not to multitask while eating. This might mean turning off the TV, music, putting down your cell phone, closing your computer or book, and sitting at the table to eat and enjoy your food.
Slow down. Did you truly taste that cupcake you shovelled into your mouth? Whether it be slowing down and taking the time to sit at the table to enjoy your food, or literally eating slower at meals and snacks, slowing down may reduce your energy intake. This is because it can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that you are full. Try using smaller utensils, taking smaller bites, drinking water between bites, or increasing the amount of times you chew your food.
Be grateful. Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Valentine Day, take a moment to be grateful for the people you are with, the food that is in front of you, or the effort that went into creating your meal or snack.
Become aware. Understand why you are eating. Ask yourself if you are actually physically hungry or if you are being driven to eat by your heart, or your stomach as we are often driven solely by external cues in the environment. For example, this might be eating a chocolate just because it is there. By becoming more aware of hunger and fullness cues in our bodies internally, it can help guide you to eat when you are actually hungry, and stop when you are full.
Use smaller dishes. The size of our plates, bowls, and glasses determine how much we serve ourselves and how much we eat. Buying and using smaller dishes at home can prevent you from overeating at a meal. If you’re at a restaurant for Valentine Day, try ordering an appetizer as your meal, or ask for half of your meal to be boxed up right away.
Savour every bite. What is your vice on Valentines Day? Is it the juicy chocolate covered strawberries? Or a piece of sweet red velvet cake? Or an extra glass of red wine? Whatever it is, focus on using all of your senses when enjoying these sweet treats. For example, notice the shape, colour, texture, aroma, taste, and flavour of your food. Take small bites and really focus on savouring this food.
Be a part of the food creation. Whether it is cutting food into heart shapes, or dipping your favourite fruit into chocolate, experimenting in the kitchen can be both a fun and beneficial. This is because connecting with your food by being a part of its creation can increases mindfulness.
Don’t beat yourself up. Lastly, don’t get upset if you ate when you weren’t hungry, or to the point where you felt stuffed. Recognize that mindful eating is a process, and Valentines Day is only one day. Use it as learning opportunity that can help guide you through your next holiday or food-focused event.
Written by dietetic intern, Melissa Bontorin, BSc (cndt), reviewed by Kristyn Hall MSc, RD