Imagine yourself at your family’s big annual holiday dinner this past December. Food is everywhere – bowls of salty nuts, a massive shrimp cocktail tray, a huge buffet of dinner dishes and a dessert cart crammed with cakes, cookies and pies. Did you:
- Pick up a single peppermint stick and retreat to a quiet bedroom, where you sit down, close your eyes and slowly enjoy the minty treat, taking note of its graceful curve, inhaling its bracing scent, appreciating how slick and smooth it feels as you take your first lick.
- Wolf down a bowl of artichoke dip, some glazed ham and mashed potatoes while standing up, gulping down wine in between.
If you answered 2, you’re in good company. Not many people are able to eat mindfully, especially while submerged in the chaos of the holidays. But mindful eating, or using all of your senses to enjoy and experience food, can be an incredibly healthy way of approaching eating. It can:
- Reduce overeating and binge eating
- Spur weight loss
- Improve the symptoms of type 2 diabetes
- Reduce anxiety about food and your body
And much more, says Susan Albers, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of the new book, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food: Mindfulness Strategies to Cope with Stress and End Emotional Eating. Albers has helped countless patients and readers master the principals of mindful eating, so we were excited when she told us that it is also possible to sip mindfully.
Albers has designed the following Mindful Sipping exercise for kefir fans. All you need is some kefir, a nice glass and a quiet space. Here is our six-step guide to doing it yourself:
- Begin by sitting in a comfortable spot. Turn off any music, TV or background noise. Silence your phone and leave it in another room.
- Pick up the bottle of kefir, feeling the weight of it in your hands. How does the cold temperature feel? Look at the bottle and notice what comes to mind when you see the blueberries, pomegranates, vanilla beans or whatever else appears on the label. As you open the bottle, listen for the click that comes with the cap detaching from the plastic ring.
- Pour a little kefir into a pretty glass (a wine glass or martini glass can be fun in this exercise.) What does the drink look like? Is part of it clinging to the sides of the glass? Are there any bubbles? What color is your kefir?
- Swirl the glass a bit, as if you were drinking wine. Watch the creamy waves whirl around the glass. Now inhale deeply – again, as if you were enjoying some fine wine. Do you smell notes of sweet? Sour? Does your mouth water at all?
- As you take your first sip, focus on temperature of the kefir; how cool it feels against your tongue. Is it refreshing? Soothing? What other adjectives would you use? Notice the tang of the kefir and the slight effervescence. Feel the thick, creamy texture. Hold it in your mouth for a moment before swallowing, then notice it traveling to the back of your mouth, feel it running down your throat and imagine it falling into your stomach.
- Repeat until your glass is empty. Along the way, pay attention to when you feel satisfied; not full, necessarily, but satisfied.
Albers notes that you can repeat this practice using a thick straw instead of drinking straight from the glass for a different experience.
Alright, so tongue-in-cheek aside, intuitive eating and mindful sipping are small practices that can have a big impact on your health. As we enter the new year, invigorated and motivated to be our best selves, it’s worth it to give these practices a try.
If you give it a try, let us know! We want your feedback. Visit us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let us know how things went for you. For some of our favorite recipes to practice with, visit our Made with Lifeway Pinterest page!