Here are the next 4 tips of the 12 Tips for Eating at Special Occasions for Savory Satisfaction, Fun, and Health – Part II

5.  Allow your favorite foods

“Normalize” your favorite foods, as part of a well-rounded and diverse way of eating, so as to not feel afraid or desperate around certain foods.  Scarcity and deprivation (as in restricting or dieting or eating “diet” foods) lead to feelings of desperation and anxiety, which can cause overeating later.  Practicing the “Eating from the Neck Down” exercise from Part I of this series, helps you to trust your body when eating any kind of food, and to feel more calm, secure, and well taken care of—creating less of a need to overeat from symbolic hunger.  The step of unconditional permission to eat comes before the steps of Hunger Attunement (the When), and What and How Much I want–then we can trust the body and enjoy the foods you love in just the right amounts.

6.  Eat mindfully with an awareness of the present moment.

Mindful eating is about staying in the present moment and make choices for beginning or ending a meal by noticing hunger and satiety cues; identifying  disordered eating triggers such as feelings, environment, social situations or certain people, and certain foods; enjoying the quality of the eating experience over quantity of food; appreciating the sensual, spiritual and social, as well as the nourishing, capacity of food; and feeling deep gratitude that may come from appreciating and experiencing foods you love.

The following are some tips that can help you develop a mindful eating practice during the holidays and make your celebrations as well as everyday eating experiences enjoyable and satisfying:

  • Make your eating place special, aesthetic and peaceful.  Remove distractions (clutter, noise, media, etc.  Soothing music okay).
  • Contemplate the origins of the food you are about to eat: where did it come from, what process did it go through before it got to my table, what will this food do for me?
  • Take a moment of silence before you eat and bless and express gratitude for the food.
  • Continue to practice listening to your body: hunger/fullness attunement before, during and after eating.
  • Notice the sensual aspects—aroma, colors, flavor, texture, temperature, etc.—of the food you are eating.  Choose foods that have a variety of sensual aspects.
  • Chew your food slowly, not only to help digestion and mechanically slow down eating, but it helps to savor your food, really feel and taste it.
  • Use your Non-dominant hand to eat (whether finger foods or using utensils) to heighten your intuition, connection to the body, nutritional messages and satiety signals.  This also mechanically slows down eating and promotes mindfulness.

7.  Carry a food bag

When you are away from home, what happens if you get hungry, and you don’t have anything to eat or drink with you?  Chances are you will get the quickest, closest thing to eat and not consciously care too much about what it is, but rather that it is anything to satisfy your hunger at the moment.  Or, you may decide to wait to get something you really want and have at home, or until you can it somewhere else, but what is the experience like when you wait with an empty, hungry stomach?  Irritation, lack of focus, dizziness, foggy brain, headache or stomach pangs sound familiar?  It is also a set-up for overeating by being way too hungry, like what I call a “Bio-Binge”, where the body’s biology says:  “I don’t care what you eat right now, just hurry up and get anything, eat it fast, and hopefully it will have a lot of calories”–because the body is making up for the lack of food now and potentially later, as an SOS mechanism.

The way to avoid the extreme swings on the Hunger-Fullness Continuum, is to carry with you a variety of foods, so that you can eat on demand—that is: what, when and how much your body tells you at any time, any place, or so that you can adhere to scheduled meals if recovering from disordered eating.  This contributes to the feeling of being well taken care of, and again reducing the need to over- or under-eat.  So, if you are out and about running errands, working late, or just forget to eat, having foods to carry with you is like having a safety net—you will fundamentally feel more grounded, calm and taken care of, and lessen anxiety and stress that can affect eating later.

8.  Enact self-acceptance

When you notice self-criticisms, replace negative self-talk with non-judgmental thoughts and words about yourself, your body, your eating and your worth.  You are entitled to have pleasurable, fun and meaningful experiences during the special occasions and every day!  Each time you think a negative thought about yourself you are setting yourself up for eating struggles.  These thoughts are not innocuous.  We really believe them and feel dreadful whenever we say them, even subconsciously.

The first step in replacing negative thoughts is to be consciously aware of them, and that they are not helping you.  In fact, these thoughts distract you from your real feelings just as overeating or restricting does.  Each time you think a critical body thought, something else is brewing (just as with symbolic hunger).  Critical body thoughts are not really about the body.  It is a translation from an uncomfortable feeling (that you don’t want to have), to your body or other aspects of yourself that you don’t accept or don’t know what to do about.  By ending the body thought you are then able to begin to name your difficulties rather than label them as your weight or eating problem.  Also, by ending these thoughts, you break the circuit of the food-weight obsession cycle.

Self-acceptance and appreciation is a process of consciously committing to giving yourself the kind, gentle, compassionate, loving messages you deserve to hear and believe.  The key to transformation is when you realize you are the only one that can consistently give enough of these messages to yourself.

Stay tuned for Part III in the next Blog.



Dr. Barbara Birsinger is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters Degree in Public Health Nutrition and a Doctorate Degree in Spiritual Healing and Energy Medicine.  She is a sought after speaker, trainer, and consultant for individuals, groups, and organizations, and lives in the San Francisco North Bay Area.  Barbara offers her workshop, “Decoding the Spiritual, Symbolic and Archetypal Meaning and Purpose in Hungers, Food Cravings, Body Language and Weight™”  as both a live event and as a live Webinar Weekly Series with Group Coaching.  Barbara also offers a Continuing Education Program (27 hours) and Certification for Licensed Professionals in her innovative and evidenced-based training, “The Behavior Decoding Method™–Advancing Transformation and Recovery From Disordered Eating and Weight-Related Behaviors“, which also includes live Consultation and Supervision with Barbara as well as Guest Clinical Psychologists and other professionals who contribute to the program. For more details, click here to contact Barbara personally.

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