Health Q&A

Practise Mindful Eating & Avoid Weight Gain This Festive Season

November 29, 2018

Festive treats encourage overeating and can lead to weight gain

End of year festivities have become synonymous with delicious feasts presented at events like the office year-end party, family functions or social gatherings with friends. Likewise, local retailers dazzle the senses with extra special treats that are loaded with fat and sugar. So, it becomes the norm if not the expectation to overindulge during the festive season, often to the detriment of your health and waistline.

While no one expects you to go cold turkey over December, practising mindful eating can ensure you keep healthy while still having fun.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation cautions against an unhealthy diet

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle to help you maintain a good body weight. Studies reveal that two out of three South African women and just under a third of South African men are either overweight or obese. People with a body mass index of between 25 and 29.9 are classified as overweight, while a BMI of 30 or higher is classified as obese. A high BMI increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and contributes to a host of other health-related problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the concept of deliberately paying attention and being fully aware of what is happening around you. This affords you greater control over both your mind and body. Mindfulness has been used to recognise and cope with physical sensations and emotions.

What is mindful eating?

When mindfulness is extended to eating, it helps you gain greater control over your eating habits. There is often an imbalance between food and eating, where some people are unable to fully appreciate their food due to mindless grazing or are burdened with the guilt of having overindulged in ‘forbidden’ treats. Mindful eating has been known to reduce emotional eating and overeating as it helps you make conscious, healthier decisions about what and when you eat.

Mindful eating urges people to pay attention and be fully present when consuming food or beverages. This involves some of the following habits:

  • Engaging with the colours, smells, textures and flavours of the food
  • Eating slowly and savouring the food instead of becoming distracted 
  • Noticing how your mood changes when you’re eating or have finished eating
  • Distinguishing between true hunger triggers and non-hunger triggers
  • Having the self-discipline to stop eating when you’re satisfied
  • Eating to maintain health and well-being

5 Tips to help you avoid weight gain over the festive season

In addition to practising mindful eating, Topmed recommends the following tips to avoid the bulge during the festive season:

1.  Read food labels and stick to the recommended serving size

One of the best ways to understand what you’re eating is by reading food labels and sticking to the recommended portion or serving size. Product ingredients are listed on the packaging in order of descending weight. In other words, if sugar is listed first then it is the ingredient with the most quantity.  The nutritional information shows how much energy, or kilojoules, is contained in the food.

Too much of a good thing can lead to weight gain. Practise portion control with these recommendations from the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s healthy eating guidelines:

  • ½ your plate should include non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli or cabbage
  • ¼ of your plate should include high fibre starch, like brown rice or pasta
  • ¼ of your plate should include lean protein, like chicken or fish

2. Make sure you get enough sleep

End-of-year functions may include many late-night parties. This can lead to weight gain as sleep helps regulate your appetite. It is during sleep that your movement and calorie usage decrease, reducing the sensation of hunger.  Sleep-deprived people do not experience this sensation and so are constantly hungry. Get some quality sleeping tips by reading our article on Getting Enough Sleep? Tips To Improve Your Sleep Quality.  

3. Don’t forget about the healthy options

Just because there is an abundance of sweets and treats during the holidays doesn’t mean you need to eat it all! Balance your meals with healthy options like fruit, yoghurt and nuts. Likewise, if you’re invited to a social function there’s no harm in bringing a salad or plate of vegetables to the table.

4. Choose your desserts wisely

Excessive sugar and fat consumption will lead to weight gain that you will have to deal with in the new year. So, choose your desserts wisely. Avoid food with a high sugar or salt content; or those that are low in nutritional value. Take pleasure in enjoying some of your favourite desserts but remain sensible about portion size and frequency of eating.

5. Use smaller plates and utensils

Our appetites are often larger than our stomachs, so try eating on a smaller plate or serve your food with smaller utensils.

At Topmed we encourage our members to adopt a healthy lifestyle, so manage your diet with mindful eating over the festive season. Get in touch today and sign up for cover for yourself and your family.


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