Wait. Fun with food?
It’s true. My take on this doesn’t agree with a lot of the fitness and health professionals whose work I follow.
Right now, as the season of lessening outdoor activities, cooler temps, and less daylight brings opportunities to gather together with friends and family, delicious food in large quantities is often the center of attention.
I’ve noticed lots of my colleagues in health and fitness filling their communication to their audiences with lots of strategies to “survive” this season. And I’ve done the same in the past.
The message that we’ve all inadvertently communicated: Caution! Don’t mess up! Don’t lose everything you’ve worked hard to accomplish!
At this point, with a better understanding than ever of how whole, deep health works, I think our message should change. After all, often when we focus a lot of attention on what NOT to do, we seem to have a way of going right down that path anyway. Like a muddy boy who was told not to get his new clothes dirty, the excitement of the moment can easily cause us to abandon our “just make sure you don’t act like a pig” gameplan.
So yes. I say, when you’re surrounded by yummy food. Have fun! Celebrate food!
Just like one workout or salad won’t transform us into healthy people, one fun meal won’t hurt us either. In fact, having fun with food once in a while is part of being healthy.
But I’ll add one important key that will ensure you actually do have fun and make good memories when those situations present themselves. No ‘drink-a-big-glass-of-water-before-you-eat,’ ‘fill-up-on-veggies-first,’ or ‘skip the gravy and dessert’ survival hacks. Let’s be honest. None of us wants to do those things when we’re with family and friends. We want to have a good time.
At the same time, I’m sure you’re a lot like me in that one of the biggest fun-killers for you is looking back with regret on a situation which could’ve been really positive. And in moments when you ‘throw caution to the wind’ and try to ignore consequences, it’s hard to really, truly have fun. There’s always a part of you that knows the truth: there will likely be consequences.
Let’s face it, it could be easy to approach an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord with reckless abandon. It might feel like “fun” at first. But then you might end up feeling like my puppy, Jack, the time he got into another dog’s 5-gallon bucket of food and had a belly-bloated first trip to the veterinary emergency room.
I doubt you want anything close to the human version of that dreadful day.
What you probably want is to enjoy plenty of good food and have happy memories of the time spent with loved ones.
So here’s just one simple but powerful element that will REALLY help you to fully enjoy the experience the next time you’re with good food and good people.
There it is: Slow. Down.
Here are a few of the many reasons why slowing down will help you to celebrate food to the full and really have fun.
Slowing down, especially when it comes to eating, will support you in not having regret of over-eating, and being uncomfortable because of how much food you gulped down.
It helps you savor the foods you’re eating, to enjoy them to the full.
It allows you to participate in the conversation and personal connections that are happening around you. And slowing down helps your body to properly digest the food you’ve eaten and send you signals about how satisfied you’re feeling at the right times during your meal.
Here are some ways that slowing down might look for you:
Before meal-time, standing back and engaging in conversations farthest away from the table or kitchen.
Being one of the last ones seated and allowing others to begin eating before you do. (Often the first to start eating are the ones who consume the most.)
Taking small servings of each of the foods you really want to try.
Before tasting, appreciate the sight and smell of the food you’re about to sample. (This is also a perfect time to enjoy a private moment of gratitude.)
Chewing completely before swallowing.
Taking a break between bites, perhaps a drink of water, setting your fork down, or taking a deep breath.
During the meal, expressing appreciation and telling the host or cook what you enjoy about the foods they’ve prepared.
Noticing the pace at which others in the group are eating and matching the pace of one of the slowest eaters.
Taking a moment when your plate is empty to notice how full/satisfied you’re feeling before taking second helpings or exploring other foods.
The main point is, go ahead and celebrate food the next time you have an opportunity to.
Slowing down will allow you to create positive memories, have fun with food, family, and friends.
Oh, and it will support your health and fitness goals.
Nate Sleger is our Manager at Begin Within, and hosts our weekly podcast. He is a certified personal trainer and certified nutrition coach. He has helped hundreds of people take control of their lives through coaching and habit-building. Connect with him here.
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