For better health, savor the meal experience as well as the food.
It's not What You Eat, but How
Americans are often told that eating healthy means counting
calories, avoiding fats (or sweets or carbohydrates) and exercising
iron willpower over temptations.
It’s time for a break from all that, says Erica Oberg, ND, MPH,
an assistant research scientist at the Bastyr University Research
Institute. She has recently completed a study showing that how
people eat — the attitudes they bring to the table — may matter
more than what they eat.
As the season of holiday foods approaches, Dr. Oberg and
research partner Ryan Bradley, ND, MPH, are offering a free
public lecture on “Tips for Healthier Holiday Eating,” at 10:30
a.m. on Saturday, November 19, at Bastyr Center for Natural
Health in Seattle.
They’ll provide research-based strategies for approaching meals
with mindfulness, particularly during the often-stressful holidays.
“Some of the most powerful parts of our holiday experiences are
eating with family or friends,” says Dr. Oberg. “For people who
are trying to diet, that can lead to a lot of tension.”
Her research with diabetic patients found that focusing on the
positive aspects of meals — traditions, time with loved ones,
expressing love through cooking — led to healthier eating habits
than focusing on avoiding foods.
“If we approach those holiday meals from a holistic experience,
we can understand that coming together and sharing food is a
really healthful experience,” Dr. Oberg says. “It becomes much
less stressful, and people end up eating fewer calories. They also
tend not to have negative self-talk, such as, ‘I’m not keeping to
my diet and I’m a bad person.’”
At the November 19 lecture, Drs. Oberg and Bradley will
explain the science that shows how eating while stressed
— or eating on the run — leads people to overeat and
crave empty calories from simple carbohydrates. “When
we come to our meals in a rested mode, our bodies are able to
receive the food better and receive the signal telling us we’re
sated and full,” Dr. Oberg says.
If you’re at a party where the spread is heavy on sugar and fat
and light on whole foods, they’ve got strategies for that, too:
Appreciate the experience, the smells of foods and the
people coming together — not just the food itself.
- Choose homemade goods with a personal connection
instead of store-bought treats you’ve had many times
Slow down and consider the effort that went into
preparing the food.
By practicing eating with a sense of gratefulness and
mindfulness, people can train themselves to avoid unhealthy
“Those become permanent changes that people can take with
them into any situation,” says Dr. Oberg.
To make an appointment at Bastyr Center, call 206.834.4100 or submit our quick contact form.