Mindful Eating this Thanksgiving

Good Morning and Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Well, it's not the evening yet so...Eve Morn? Yeah. Happy Thanksgiving Eve Morn.

Thanksgiving can bring up a lot of different emotions for American women. There's a high likelihood that you'll be spending today with friends and/or family, and that can be perceived as either a good or bad thing (0r for many people, I think, a nice little cocktail of emotions). If you are unable to spend the day with family or friends, that brings up whole other kinds of emotions. And then there's, of course, the fact that this holiday revolves around indulging ourselves with an excessive fatty, buttery, salty, sweet & sticky meal.

Women have incredibly unique relationships with eating and food, and I am not suggesting that I think that I am able to write a blog post encompassing all of that complexity. There are so many variables that come into play, shaping the way that we feel about food. It's an interesting exercise to take a moment to look back on your childhood and the subconscious messages you may have received about food, eating, and body image as a child. What kinds of meals were served at the dinner table? Was food and its health consequences discussed, and in what tone? What was your mother's relationship with eating like?

If you're feeling kind of weird about Thanksgiving this year, it's okay. Lots of people feel that way. This holiday can bring a lot of things up, including stresses about eating, health, family, drinking, and body image. It can be especially challenging for those struggling with disordered eating habits. If you need extra support this holiday season from a support group, therapist, friend, or all of the above, don't be afraid to reach out. You deserve to enjoy the day!

When I was in college, I was a Peer Health Educator. We did a Chocolate Mindfulness Meditation that I'll never forget. Each person takes a square of chocolate (any will do, but if you can get your hands on a high quality piece you may enjoy yourself a wee bit more) and practices mindful eating. When you eat mindfully, you take the time to consume your food while engaging all of the senses. You fight against the urge to mindlessly and quickly indulge. Instead, you try to truly savor every bite.

This graphic doesn't look like I'm suggesting you eat a brain, right? Just checking.
This graphic doesn't look like I'm suggesting you eat a brain, right? Just checking.

Mindful eating can be helpful for anyone, whether you view yourself as having a positive or negative relationship with food. The practice encourages appreciation, gratitude, and intentional living. It reminds us to slow down. To allow ourselves to enjoy.

Headspace, a meditation app (that's super cool), has an article on their website that details how to do a simple, enlightening chocolate meditation. Practice this meditation sometime when you're alone and in a quiet space. See how it feels. Notice the things that you liked or didn't like, that felt easy or more challenging. See if you can apply these ideas at the Thanksgiving table this year. And, as always, take care of yourself.

MINDFUL CHOCOLATE EATING FROM HEADSPACE:

1) Before you pick up the chocolate take a couple of deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, just to allow the body and mind to settle a little. Mentally leave behind whatever you're doing for a moment or two.

2) Take a moment to appreciate the chocolate. Where has it come from? What's in it? Try and imagine the different ingredients in their natural growing environment and even the types of people who might have grown the cocoa beans.

3) Before you begin to eat it, pause to notice if there's a feeling of impatience, of just wanting to eat it as quickly as possible. Notice if there are feelings of pleasure and excitement, or feelings of guilt and unease, about the idea of eating the chocolate.

4) Slowly unwrap the chocolate and then take a good minute or so to explore it with your eyes, nose and hands. Look at it closely, smell it carefully and then touch it to see how it feels.

5) By now you'll be more than ready to taste it. Take a small bite (or alternatively put the whole thing in your mouth), but try to resist chewing the chocolate. Notice how it feels in the mouth, the temperature and the texture. Also become aware of the taste - whether it's sweet, bitter, creamy etc. Try to allow the chocolate to melt in the mouth by gently moving it around with your tongue, rather than chewing it. Sit back in your chair and enjoy the moment.

For more on facing Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder:

Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder: 10 Tips to Help You Enjoy the Holiday

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Coping With The Holidays When You Have An Eating Disorder

Body Image Booster: 10 Ideas to Enjoy Yourself This Thanksgiving