I find it ironic that the holidays are supposed to be the most joyous time of year yet the large majority of people are overwhelmingly stressed by the desire to find the most thoughtful gift, make the perfect meal or prevent the horribly awkward moment when a certain uncle gets a little too tipsy and makes racially insensitive comments during the family trip to the ice skating rink. Compounding the seasonal burden, the aggressive promotion of holiday “how-to’s” on preventing weight gain and maintaining the perfect physique exacerbate the anxiety associated with holiday eating and create guilt when an indulgence is observed. However, becoming mindful of the rate at which we typically eat and slowing ourselves down at meals will benefit our health and will help reduce the remorse associated with eating the foods we often enjoy during the holiday season.
According to a recent study, healthy women ate approximately 75 fewer calories, drank more water, and reported higher levels of satiety and pleasantness when eating at a slower rate. This suggests to me that controlling the rate at which we shamelessly imbibe fruit cake and eggnog will not only reduce the potential for weight gain this holiday season, but will also allow us to enjoy the foods that bring us comfort and happiness.
Also, eating slowly will aid the digesting process by helping the stomach adjust to the amount of food that is consumed and will facilitate the efficient breakdown and absorption of nutrients. This will help the body properly convert food to energy and allow the easy passage and elimination of waste. So, more time spent playing flag football and less time spent in the bathroom.
Further, slowing down while eating will allow us to experience the full flavor of our holiday indulgences and will provide an extra layer of joy to the season. This method of eating may have the added benefit of helping us recognize that traditional holiday foods no longer provide us any additional satisfaction and are no longer worth the extra effort or calories they require.
What should we strive for when sitting down for our holiday celebration? I would like to say that we should chew each bite 30 times, but this seems a little excessive to a power eater like myself. Therefore, I have found that I can slow my pace significantly by placing my utensils down after each bite and preventing myself from picking them back up until I have completely swallowed the previous bite. This technique ensures that I thoroughly chew my food without having to count the number of times I chew each bite.
While all of this is certainly good news, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this gives us license to excessively eat anything we like during the holidays. But, it does allow us some freedom when choosing to eat less than ideal foods in the company of loved ones or in celebratory moments. No matter what we choose to eat during this extremely stressful season, we can escape the ‘holiday how-to’ and embrace the joy that this time of year represents by becoming mindful of the rate at which we eat and slowing down to enjoy the full experience of our food.