Using mindfulness to avoid gluttony this Christmas
I love Christmas, from the baubles on the tree to candle-lit carol services, garish knitted jumpers to glittering party dresses, I’ll have the lot. And there is nothing I love more than the food. There is something devilishly appealing about a well laid spread of the finest festive fare, however all too often the temptation is too much and we succumb to gluttony as one mince pie becomes three and a sip of mulled wine becomes the whole bottle. Often this gluttony leaves us feeling overfed and less than satisfied wondering what it was we just ate, so, if like me you suffer from the over-indulgence blues, try this mindful way to enjoy the feast without over-eating. It can be used with food or drink, a whole meal or an amuse bouche. Furthermore it isn’t about healthy eating but about managing the inevitable treats we allow ourselves at this time of year. So the next time you’re confronted with your favourite yuletide treat resist the urge to scoff it straight away and follow these simple steps to help you avoid the festive excess and enjoy it!
Before you even think about eating or drinking, instead look at it and ask yourself, what does it looks like? You may have seen it a thousand times before but concentrate on this particular item, in this particular moment, and consider it as though you have never seen it before. What colour is it? What shape is it? Are there any details about it that catch your attention? What do you notice about it? Try to focus your attention and not to let your mind wander – so often we eat whilst talking, reading, or watching television and overeat simply by not paying attention.
Explore how it feels (where appropriate). Is it light or heavy? Rough or smooth? Wet or dry? It may seem elemental and indeed has been taught in primary schools the world over as a means of discovery, but by individually targeting each individual sense you are able to engage or re-engage your inquisitive mind and notice things you may have overlooked before.
You only need to glance at a food critic or sommelier to realise the importance of smell when it comes to food and drink but how many times do you use this sense specifically? In the same way that you can eat without tasting, you can smell without smelling, so next give it a sniff and see what sensations it causes in your body, does it have a strong odour or a light fragrance? Can you identify any specific ingredients? Does it smell sweet or sour?
Finally take a bite, and feel it in your mouth. Notice the texture and the sensation on your tongue. Is it hot or cold? Sweet or sour? Rough or smooth? I would personally never recommend chewing 30 times before swallowing but it is important to take your time and enjoy your treat fully. This does not have to be a long and laboured process, but a gentle and inquisitive experience. By taking your time, listening to your body’s reactions and focussing on one experience at a time you may well find your senses are heightened, you notice things that before you would have overlooked, and that your experience is more vivid. Furthermore by taking your time you may discover that less really is more!
Jessica is one of our guest bloggers. She is a student of mindfulness and yoga based in South Warwickshire, England.
Cover image: Maria Lönnqvist