Winter is coming… the nights are drawing in and the temperature is most certainly dropping! It’s natural that at this time of year we might find ourselves craving different types of foods to what we did in the heat of the summer. It’s also very common for people to loosen up a bit with what they’re eating and to take a more relaxed approach to their food choices during these months. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with leaning into these changes, the temptation to over-indulge on our favourite seasonal foods can sometimes be hard to resist. This can mean that by the time new year rolls around we’re sometimes left feeling sluggish, bloated, and possibly a bit unwell.
Whilst I’m certainly not going to suggest that anyone denies themselves what they really want this winter, what I do want to highlight is the importance of tuning into what your body is telling you and the way that certain foods or eating behaviours makes you feel. Taking a more mindful and considered approach to your eating means you’ll be able to enjoy the foods you love, whilst maintaining some balance and continuing to feel good. In this article, I'm going to share with you three ways you can become more mindful and manage the desire to over-indulge at this time of year.
Assess your hunger
We often don’t take the time to consider whether our desire to eat is coming from a place of true physical hunger, or whether there’s something else driving it, like negative emotions or boredom. Food is there to be enjoyed, which means you don’t always have to be truly hungry to eat, but it’s probably better for this to be the exception rather than the rule.
One way to help assess physical hunger levels is by using a scale from 1 (feeling so hungry you might pass out) to 10 (being so full you feel physically sick). If you fall somewhere around a 4 on this scale, that would usually be considered an appropriate time to start eating. Try not to let yourself get any hungrier than that though, as you’ll be more likely to make impulsive decisions if you’re starving.
For some women, pregnancy-related nausea can be alleviated by eating more frequently, which won’t always be when they are physically hungry. If this is the case for you, it’s definitely better to eat to manage your symptoms, rather that waiting till you feel hungry (and sick). It’s also worth mentioning that during pregnancy, women often find themselves feeling more hungry than usual, which is also totally normal.
How does it make you feel?
In the moment, filling your boots with your favourite food is probably going to feel great, but it’s worth just pausing and considering how it might make you feel afterwards. In the past, has it made you feel sluggish, lethargic, or irritable when you’ve had too much? If you know you’re going to feel worse for eating it, perhaps try to moderate how much you have. Try eating more slowly and mindfully, limiting external distractions as best you can, to help you better tune into your body’s signals and decide when enough is enough.
Ask yourself what you need
It’s not uncommon for our motivation to eat certain foods, or to eat a lot of one particular food, to come from an emotional place. I’m sure anyone reading this will have heard the term 'comfort eating', which describes using food to fill an emotional void or soothe us in times of emotional distress. If you already suspect that your desire to eat is coming from a non-hunger driven place, it can be helpful to stop and genuinely ask yourself the question “what do I need in this moment?” It might be that you need connection, comfort, stimulation, security, or something else entirely. It might be that in that moment food is what you feel you need, but asking yourself that question allows you to better understand your current emotional state and provides you with the opportunity to make different choices to support yourself in other ways.