During the holiday season, many people put their health on a back burner. They binge on unhealthy foods. They gain an average of six pounds. They postpone exercising. Even worse, many people use the holidays as an excuse to temporarily abandon their own personal health goals and put them off until the start of the new year. These were the key findings of a 2018 survey commissioned by Herbalife Nutrition, the largest global nutrition company in the world. Famous for their Herbalife Formula 1 Shakes and Herbalife24 products, Herbalife Nutrition has been making people healthier and happier since 1980.
Herbalife Nutrition’s holiday health survey was conducted by OnePoll, a market research firm based in the UK. The survey involved two thousand American participants. The findings give us a clear picture of the mindset of many Americans when it comes to their personal health around the holidays. A whopping forty-five percent of the survey participants indicated they would delay all attempts to be healthy until after the new year and thirty percent even admit to eating until they feel sick over the holidays. Forty percent said they had to losen a button on their pants they got so full.
What may be most interesting about this survey is the contrast between eating habits and health goals. Seventy-one percent of the same survey participants indicated that their top New Year’s resolutions included eating healthier and exercising more. Clearly, the large majority of survey participants care about their health or they would not be making these their top New Year’s resolutions — but still they eat until they almost pop — why? In this author’s mind, it comes down to a psychology issue. It’s all about how people have been conditioned to think about holiday celebrations and other social gatherings where most people eat with abandonment. If you too fall into this category, it may require some self-reprogramming in order to stay healthy throughout the year.
Herbalife Nutrition’s survey seems to show that many Americans believe they can defer healthy habits until later and then simply “catch up” and become healthy again by exercising and eating better after the holidays. However, the truth is it is a lot more difficult to get back to your previous healthy state if you allow yourself to just go on an unabated “health vacation” during the holidays. In fact, the same is true about any celebration or social event where you may be tempted to just abandon your healthy habits temporarily (or so you think it’s temporary). For example, birthday parties, barbecue picnics, family gatherings, and office parties almost always have a tantalizing spread of unhealthy food options. To make matters worse, there’s usually lots of people encouraging you to “taste this” and asking “have you tried that?” The host may even insist you take home plates of fattening low nutrient density foods.
Even those individuals who follow Herbalife Nutrition’s philosophy of living an active healthy life can talk themselves into thinking that they can just abandon their healthy habits for that one day, or for one event, and then get right back to being healthy the next day. It may just be that’s how they were taught growing up and have never learned how to re-train that thinking. The problem is that completely abandoning healthy eating habits “temporarily” almost never works out very well. For starters, the holiday season goes on for more than a month, so it’s not just one day, it’s many days, and that adds up to a lot of extra calories, many of which have low nutrient density!
It’s also not just the holiday season! There are plenty of other celebratory events happening all throughout the year where those same types of temptations will entice you to make that same excuse. If you allow yourself to develop a mindset that you can abandon your healthy habits temporarily, and just go back to your healthy habits the next day, it becomes a very a slippery slope. Once this happens, most people end up sliding to the point they abandon their healthy habits for much longer stretches of time, and for some people, abandon them altogether. That’s when the weight and body fat can really begin to climb and the health problems start to creep in.
Dr. John Agwunobi, Herbalife Nutrition’s Co-president and Chief Health and Nutrition Officer, wrote a piece for the “I Am Herbalife Nutrition” website about how to avoid weight gain during the holiday season. One of his main points was to encourage people to practice “mindful eating.” This is a great suggestion that should be echoed by many, not only during the holidays, but every day. Celebratory and social situations. where there is an abundance of food available. should not be exceptions for maintaining good health. Let’s take a closer look at mindful eating and how it can help you more easily avoid temptations and stay healthy throughout the entire year.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist technique. Mindful eating allows you to get in touch with your emotions as you interact with food. It also allows you to more fully experience all aspects of food, rather than simply tasting it. This process allows you to gain more control over what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, and your eating habits in general. If you practice mindful eating, you will also enjoy and appreciate your food more. In this way, mindful eating will help you feel more satisfied and satiated with your food, even when you eat less.
The best part about mindful eating is that once you start practicing it, it’s actually difficult to stop because your mind takes over. It’s like teaching a person to read. It’s hard not to read a sign if you know how to read. It just happens naturally. Mindful eating works much the same way so this is a “dieting” tip with staying power!
Tips On How To Practice Mindful Eating
– Survey the Entire Buffet or Spread BEFORE You Make Your Selections
This is another great tip by Herbalife Nutrition’s Dr. Agwunobi and it’s a very useful tip because it will help you eat less and make healthier selections. As you survey all the food offerings, really stop and think about your emotions as you see each particular food. Study them all and really pay attention to what emotions each food provokes. Which ones really catch your fancy that particular day. Just because you like chicken doesn’t mean you’re necessarily hungry for it that particular day. Remind yourself you can’t eat everything and you want to make each bite you take really count. Develop a game plan before you grab your plate.
Now, let’s say you just start at the end of a long food buffet with an abundance of choices and work you’re way down. You might see a big bowl of buttery mashed potatoes with tiny flecks of coarse ground pepper. Your mind goes “YUM!” and as you pick up the serving spoon, you tell yourself, “It’s okay, it’s a special occasion, load up!” So you do! But then about mid-way down the buffet, you discover there’s a delicious looking sweet potato casserole. Had you seen this item before you loaded up on the spuds, you probably would have served yourself a smaller portion or opted out of the potatoes altogether and substituted the sweet potato casserole, right? Always survey the entire food selection before you fill your plate.
– Take Time To Visualize Your Food and Enjoy the Aroma
Your taste buds aren’t the only body part you have to enjoy food! Food can also be eye candy, especially the food served at special events. In fact, the best part of the occasion can be eying all the goodies before they’re devoured by the crowd. You may even want to take time to take pictures of the beautiful spread or a dessert you find particularly pretty. This has the added advantage that it will show love to your host. In fact, give them a big hug and tell them how lovely the food looks and thank them for their efforts to make everyone’s day extra nice.
Once you have food on your plate, take time to enjoy admiring your food before you start eating. Even if the food isn’t decorated in any special way, such as your mom’s home cooked cornbread dressing, you can think about the love and time that went into preparing it before you start eating it. Food can also be an olfactory delight so take time to partake of this element of food too. You may be surprised at how much less you tend to eat when you actually take the time to experience and enjoy your food in these ways.
– Take Time To Enjoy That Delightful CRUNCH Sound
Let’s say you’re at a holiday party and there’s dip, salsa, and chips. It might be tempting to just gobble down a bunch of chips while your aunt tells you about her summer vacation to Europe. But… you’ll enjoy those chips more, and eat less of them, if you consciously decide to really listen to that satisfying “CRUNCY” sound as you bite into a chip. Now, if you realize the main reason you’re eating chips is he crunch, substitute a celery stick or a jicama chip! Maybe even think about the difference in the crunch and decide which crunches the best. Sound silly? Good, you may need to laugh a bit! Seriously, crunching and the sound foods make as they’re eaten is a big part of food that famous chiefs pay close attention to.
As you CRUNCH down, pay attention to how the crunchy food breaks apart in your mouth and taste the different flavors that come bursting through as this happens. The mechanical experience of the CRUNCH, and the way it physically feels in your mouth is something to be savored just as much as you enjoy the flavor. You can do the same with other crunchy foods like raw carrots and crackers that give the same type of satisfying sound as you eat them. Pay close attention to textures too. Feel them with your tongue before you start to chew.
– Be Mindful of What You Ate Yesterday and What You’ll Eat Tomorrow
If you do overindulge a bit at a celebratory event, or because your granddad was serving up mouthwatering grilled masterpieces at the family picnic, think about what you’re going to need to do the next day to cut back a bit. Perhaps you might drink an Herbalife Nutrition Formula 1 Shake at breakfast AND at lunch to keep your day a bit lower in calories but still get all the nutrients you need! You may also want to plan an extra workout session or just go for a good long walk in a beautiful park. Invite a relative or friend along if you do so you can enjoy the social interaction without temptation of food around.
Likewise, if you ate a big Thanksgiving dinner the day before at your best friend’s house because she insisted you come over, and now you’re at your sister’s house and she’s put out a beautiful spread, be mindful of what you ate the day before and adjust your intake accordingly. In Herbalife Nutrition’s holiday food survey, they found that forty-five percent of the participants admitted to having eaten TWO Thanksgiving dinners in one day. Be mindful of the health consequences before you follow this same pattern and you’ll likely deter yourself.
– Pay Close Attention To Your Serving Sizes & Don’t Show Up Too Hungry
Herbalife Nutrition’s Dr. Agwunobi suggests using a smaller plate, if available, at parties or social gathering. You’ll be less tempted to really pile on the food and more mindful about your food choices because of your limited plate real estate. The portions on the smaller plate will also “trick” your mind into believing you’re eating more. A research team from the University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva Israel conducted an experiment that proves this works with people who were not that hungry.
In the same experiment, the people in the experimental group who were hungry were not affected by plate size in how much they ate. You can take this result to indicate if you’re headed to a party, it may be a good idea to eat a small healthy snack, such as an Herbalife Nutrition Herbalife24 Achieve High Protein Bar, or a small handful of nuts, so you’re less likely to over-indulge at the party. Still select the small plate though!
– Chew Slowly and Savor Each Bite Fully
When food looks and smells delicious, it is easy to just wolf it down, mouthful after mouthful, while making happy noises. However, if you slow down, chew each bite slowly, and really make an effort to get as much enjoyment out of each bite as possible, you’ll feel fully satisfied while eating less food.
If you eat slowly, it will be easier for you to receive the signals from your brain, “I’m beginning to get full!” and not let your cravings for sweets overload your stomach. If you engage with other people while you eat, you can take a temporary pause in the middle of eating, listen to a story, and then ask yourself, “Do I feel any fuller?” This is a great trick at social gatherings when eating is mixed with socializing.
Ask Yourself These Questions These Important Questions
Before you actually see the food, perhaps before you even walk in the door, ask yourself, “How hungry am I?” Once you see the food and smell the food, your mind may play tricks on you and convince you that you’re more hungry than you actually are! Therefore, if you gage your hunger level before you go in, and determine that you’re only a little hungry, you can use this to negotiate with yourself as you navigate the spread.
When you finish about half your plate, start asking yourself, “How full am I now?” When you feel almost full but not quite full, STOP EATING! Remember this very helpful trivia. It takes your brain about fifteen to twenty minutes to signal you’re full. Therefore, if you keep eating until you actually feel one hundred percent full, you’ll be STUFFED about twenty minutes later. If you’re tempted to keep eating, find a pleasant diversion to take your mind off eating. Play games with the kids, offer to take the dog for a walk, catch up with your friends and relatives, or simply step back and watch others have a good time.
Herbalife Nutrition’s Dr. Agwunobi says, “A healthy, active lifestyle is a long-term commitment – not something to turn on and off.” Touché! Just because there’s a party, a family get together, or some other social occasion with food, it doesn’t mean you should abdicate your duty to yourself to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Mindful eating can help you fully enjoy the special foods served at holidays and other gatherings without eating so much you sacrifice your health.
Only twelve percent of those surveyed in the Herbalife Nutrition holiday food survey reported no weight gain during the holidays. Furthermore, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s latest National Health Interview Survey (2017) shows that Americans are heavier than ever, with a reported 31.4 percent obesity rate nationwide among those twenty years old or older. This is the highest obesity rate ever reported. One way for you to prevent being overweight, or to lose weight if you need to, is to practice mindful eating every day without making exceptions for holiday celebrations and other social events.
In 2002, a Danish research team conducted a systematic review of the literature on obesity and concluded that eighty-five percent of all obese people who lose substantial weight gain it back within a few years. However, if you practice mindful eating, your odds of keeping the excess weight off improve dramatically. You can also replace one meal a day with a delicious Herbalife Nutrition high protein shake to help maintain a healthy weight.
Enjoy your food but make mindful choices along the way!