How to Eat Mindfully at Summer Parties

Summer means lots of fun in the sun, and lots of yummy food at park picnics, poolside potlucks and backyard barbecues.

With all the excitement and distractions, it’s easy to eat mindlessly.

Mindless eating can spoil a great party if it leads to gas, bloating, cramping, indigestion, sluggishness and other uncomfortable feelings.

It's definitely a show-stopper if it results in the desire to go home and lie on your coach.

The following five practices will help you eat more mindfully, including choosing foods that are pleasurable, satisfying and nourishing to your body.

1/ Pause and check in.
Pause before grabbing a plate to check in with your body’s desires and hunger level.

Is your body craving something light, cool and crisp or something hearty, warm and juicy? Is it yearning for sweet, salty, bitter or sour flavors?

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not hungry at all, 5-6 being moderately hungry, and 10 being really hungry, gauge where you're at. Let this inform what type and how much food you need to feel satiated (versus stuffed).

2/ Scan and plan.
Explore all your food options first to determine which dishes are really calling to you, and how those foods will feel in your body.

For example, I love a cold bean salad on a hot summer day, but my stomach revolts against raw onion, so I’ll skip it if it includes it. 

3/ Make a sampler plate.
Put just a small amount of your most desired foods (including desserts) on your plate so you can sample everything to determine which items you want more of.

Sometimes that delicious looking potato salad ends up tasting just ho-hum. For many of us (especially Clean Your Plate Club members), it’s easier to toss a few spoonfuls of something we don’t like, rather than a few large scoops.

4/ Return for seconds.
Go back for seconds of the foods you enjoyed the most. But first, assess your hunger level again to help guide your choices and portions.

5/ Slowly savor every bite.
This can be more challenging to do while socializing and absorbing the party scene, but strive to slowly savor every bite and pause throughout your meal to check your body’s satisfaction and fullness levels.

Mindful What?
Sometimes, it can be tough to remember these steps or put them into practice when you’re in party mode.

No need to feel bad or guilty or regretful. You’ll have many more opportunities to wear your mindful eating party hat.

To help you remember, join forces with a fellow reveler who shares your mindful eating intentions or put a few reminders on your phone.

Are You Breaking Your Own Heart?

This passage from author and wise woman Anne Lamott really resonates with me:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”

In the past, I’ve shared how I let my so-called inadequacies and imperfections stop me from fully living.

I let the size of my body dictate the size of my life.

It breaks my heart when I think about how much time, energy and life force we waste berating ourselves for not having a better body and obsessing about how to fix it.

I often wonder, if we weren’t thinking about this, what would we be thinking about?

Where would we be putting all our energy?

How different would our lives be?

How different would the world be?

My highest intention is to help end this needless suffering so none of us dies wishing we would have gone swimming.

Pick a New Direction
I’ve seen with myself and with my clients that it is possible to replace criticism with compassion, judgment with curiosity, loathing with loving, rejection with acceptance, playing small with living big.

As Anne Lamott says, it all starts with the willingness to...

“Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.”

When Carrot Sticks Aren't Healthier Than Potato Chips

Stressed out and struck by a huge urge to munch, Suzie grabbed a bag of baby carrots instead of her favorite potato chips.

Craving cake after visiting a friend who just got engaged, Jill, who longed to find a romantic partner, drove home and ate a big bowl of plain yogurt sprinkled with chocolate chips instead of driving to the bakery.

Hankering for a snack when bored at work, Tim bought almonds from the vending machine instead of his usual bag of M&Ms.

Well-Intended, Ineffective Strategy
Each of these folks was proud to share with me their “win”—that is, their decision to go for a healthier option when a craving hit.

And yes, I agree. They should feel proud of themselves for making a more thoughtful choice.

Yet, while carrots, yogurt and nuts may be more nutritious than chips, cake and candy, eating food—no matter what it is—to cope with uncomfortable emotions is a well-intended, ultimately ineffective strategy.

Although eating brought them a moment of pleasure, distraction and relief, once they were done, Suzie’s stress persisted, Jill’s sadness and loneliness remained, and Tim was still bored silly.

Learn Another Way
Rather than use food (or booze, pot, shopping, screen time, etc.) to suppress challenging feelings, I teach my clients how to identify and address their emotional hungers. To feel—not feed—their feelings.

When they learn how to understand and meet their true needs, their emotional eating diminishes and their overall wellbeing improves.

Learn more by reading about how I crumbled a mad cookie craving here.