Diet is the four-letter word no one likes, especially around the holidays.
For many, dieting implies not being able to eat what you want when you want it. However, Gayle Timmerman, who studies dietary self-management at UT Austin’s School of Nursing, believes mindful eating could be the key to losing pounds while still enjoying the holidays.
Maybe even more importantly, said Timmerman, mindful eating can prevent people from gaining extra pounds in the first place.
Mindful eating is a practice of paying detailed attention to what you are eating at that moment: the look, the smell, the texture and the taste of the food. Being in the moment while eating may help you to really enjoy small amounts of the high-calorie foods you crave while filling up on healthier fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
Timmerman, the associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Nursing, has more than 20 years of research experience on eating patterns as it relates to weight in diverse populations, with the past 11 years focused on mindful eating. Her studies have found that interventions using mindful eating at restaurants and social events can facilitate weight loss.
You can still enjoy the activities and merriment of the season; just be sure to make small changes and pay attention to what you’re eating.
These tips, Timmerman said, could make the difference in getting back into your favorite clothes after the holidays!
- Calories count. You need to be in a calorie deficit (fewer calories eaten than burned) to lose weight. Many strategies are available to help you get there.
- Start with a plan. If you are a chocolate lover, start with chocolate. Mindfully eat a high-quality, individually wrapped piece of chocolate or three high-quality chocolate chips. One study found eating chocolate mindfully improved mood as compared with eating chocolate without paying attention.
- Practice mindful eating daily. You need to be purposeful in order to make it a habit. You may need to come up with a reminder system.
- Prepare for eating out. When dining at a restaurant, ask for a “to go” box when you order. When the box and your food arrive, immediately put half of your order into the box before you start eating and encroaching on what you planned to take home with you to enjoy the next day.
- Pay attention to your body. Mindful eating also includes paying attention to your body cues. Use a 1-to-10 rating scale to ask yourself how hungry or how full you are. Let your body help guide you in eating.
- Change your food environment. You’ll be more successful if you don’t have to fight against your biology to eat what you should and avoid what you shouldn’t. Make healthy foods convenient and visible and unhealthy options difficult to get to.