From Christmas lunch to dinners with friends and family, the last few months of the year tend to revolve around food. And with delicious treats everywhere in sight and everyone around us munching away, it can be difficult to stick to healthy eating.
However, it is perfectly fine to indulge on occasion, without the guilt – the trick is to eat mindfully and really enjoy what you are eating while avoiding overindulging in the process.
Avoid attending an event on an empty stomach
By eating a small, nutritious meal or sipping on a protein- and fibre-rich shake before you leave the house, you are less likely to go overboard when that tray of hors d’oeuvres passes you at a party.
Similarly, drinking a glass of water before eating can also help you from overeating out of thirst. One Obesity Journal study found that people who drank 500 ml of water half an hour before meals ate fewer kilojoules during their meals and were left feeling fuller compared to participants who didn’t have water as an appetiser. Also, thirst is often confused for hunger, so be sure to hydrate before tucking into that buffet.
Prioritise mindfulness over multitasking
How often do we eat meals while we are working, driving or running errands? The problem with this habit is that it can lead to mindless overeating. Research from the Harvard Nutrition Source shows that we eat with our eyes, meaning that by removing visual information about how much is eaten during a meal increases the amount of food consumed. Try looking at your food while you eat and take time to fully chew and swallow each mouthful.
Be strict with sleep
There’s a strong link between sleep and hunger signals – a study published in Oxford Academic’s SLEEP showed that healthy young adults who slept only 4.5 hours for four nights in a row consumed approximately 1254 more kilojoules in one sitting than those who had gotten 8.5 hours of sleep per night.
Researchers believe that sleep restriction increases the activation of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), resulting in excessive food intake for pleasure rather than to fulfil a caloric need., those who are sleep-deprived are likely to experience a greater desire for foods high in sugar, fat and empty kilojoules.
Lining your stomach with nutrient-dense food before you go out, drinking enough water, being present while you eat, and sleeping adequately are all easy strategies to prevent overindulgence.
But most importantly, if you do overeat, don’t feel guilty about it – a University of Canterbury report found that people who feel guilty after indulging are more likely to gain weight than those who don’t worry about it. Rather, take it in your stride and reset your healthy eating habits afterwards.