Try ‘Intentional Eating’ This Holiday Season

Snacking at the desk

It seems like every few years there is a new fad diet rolling through town – Atkins, South Beach, Slim-Fast, Scarsdale, Dexatrim, Paleo, The Zone, and so on. So many of these things promise to take off the pounds for you – but in many cases also take away accountability for making good eating choices.

I have always believed that no food should automatically be declared ‘off the table’ – obviously some people have allergies, tolerance issues or food triggers that make elimination a necessity, but for most people I believe that total elimination just leads to unnatural focus on the things they are missing!

The holidays – often starting with a post-Halloween candy binge and ending with January 2nd regret – are infamous for over-eating and weight gain. There was big news with the survey showing an average Thanksgiving plate for an adult is close to 4500 calories, with some kids eating as much as 6000 calories in a single meal!

There were loads of articles around Thanksgiving about how to reduce calories consumed at dinner and otherwise reduce the impact of what can otherwise be a diet-buster of a long weekend. Those articles often missed what I see as one of the biggest culprits of over-consumption: grabbing a handful of this, a scoop of that, or a few cookies as you are chatting at a cookie swap or school holiday concert. Or perhaps grab a plate of stuff from a holiday lunch and bring it back to your desk and munch away on it without thinking.

Chances are you have no idea about the nutritional content of those things, and don’t factor them into your daily intake. This is what I call ‘incidental eating’ – it is just something that happens.

Of course the BEST thing is to only eat when you are focusing your attention on eating – but so many of us try to multitask (yet another reason multitasking is BAD as study after study keep trying to tell us!) so we eat at our desk, or have our phone/tablet/laptop out while eating at home (totally guilty). The result is we eat – but have we done so in a way that maximizes its value and our enjoyment? Probably not.

But at the same time I believe that the holidays can be a time when we maintain healthy eating and life habits. How do we do that?

We can do that by what I call ‘Intentional Eating’.

With ‘Intentional Eating’, it is not that you pass on grabbing that gob of cookie dough left in the bowl or licking the beater with frosting on it, or whatever it is that is your guilty pleasure. It is that you OWN that eating.

The reality is that I think about this stuff because I have ‘an unhealthy relationship with food’. Food and I have a past, present and future, and our relationship status right now is ‘It’s Complicated’. I have been obese for years, I have a healthy weight for years, and various places in between. There is no cure for this sort of thing – just constant vigilance.

Now, the BEST way to make yourself accountable for your intake is to write it down.

But that also takes time and work – and is one of those things that if not done habitually will fail … and worse yet, if you try to journal your food but don’t keep account of all of those little bites and nibbles and scoops – you will not get the results and won’t understand why!

If you know you can’t journal your eating, at least engage in the ‘STAR’ system – Stop, Think, Act and Review. Stop and Think: Do you REALLY want that sample? If the answer is YES – go for it! Then … step back and review. How much did I have, what sort of ‘calorie bomb’ was it, did I enjoy it?

Over the past year and a half I have basically stopped eating processed candy – I have decided that it just isn’t worth it for me. I will gladly eat homemade items with monstrous caloric content – because I have made the choice that one is worth eating and the other is not.

Intentional eating.

What do you think? Is it something that you try to do during the holidays, or do you just avoid all of the snacking?

3 thoughts on “Try ‘Intentional Eating’ This Holiday Season

  1. Such a great post, Michael! I am fairly good at intentional eating BESIDES late at night when I’m trying to keep myself awake to work into the wee hours. Then, I become such an un-intentional snacker! I like that you have identified what is “worth it” to you and what is not.

    • Thanks Megan – Lisa was reading this post and thinking about how on Friday night during Grimm my younger son made popcorn, and although she wasn’t hungry and didn’t really want any, she had a bunch. It is SO easy to fall into that habit!

      And I know I am very lucky on the ‘worth it / not worth it’ thing – it was something I decided way back when I first lost weight, and has always been a key element of weight loss and control for me.

  2. Pingback: Five Things Friday – Habits for a Healthy Holiday ! | Running Around the Bend

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