Arguably the biggest Sunday in America is only a few days away. Super Bowl Sunday is the pinnacle of American sports. It is the day where rivals are made and friendships are fortified, trust is broken and relationships are strengthened, band-wagon fans are molded and faithful fans get folded. What a great day in America, right?
As a Dietitian, I can't help to notice how any type of mindful eating gets placed on standby as we gorge on our favorite foods with a lack of control, consideration, or awareness of our true hunger and fullness cues. What are the typical menu items?
According to thedailymeal.com, an article named "The Most Popular Super Bowl Party Foods, Ranked," lists the top 15 Super Bowl party foods. On this list, the top 4 were:
#4 | Pizza #3 | Spinach artichoke dip #2 | Buffalo chicken dip #1 | Chicken wings
According to the Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating is:
"using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body."
It takes into account hunger and fullness cues to guide decisions on when to begin and end eating. I am not saying that you shouldn't enjoy your favorite Super Bowl Sunday dishes. Let's be honest, who isn't going to enjoy a slice of pizza or two? But for some of us, two will turn into too many and we have no idea how we got there. The same goes for wings, desserts, alcoholic beverages, and other menu items we like to enjoy on this festive Sunday. Many different things are happening at once during the gathering. We lost control of our eating way before we even before we arrived at the function. A few contributing factors include:
Money on the line
These work as a unit and can impact your overall choices. At any second, what feels like an audible to your expectations on the night drives your decision-making. It is now fourth down & your food intake takes the biggest hit. Then you end up quarterbacking all-you-can-eat into your digestive end-zone during the game and entertaining commercial breaks. FLAG ON THE PLAY. Use a couple of these tips to ensure you have a mindful eating experience and win the match against overeating.
1. WATCH THE SUPER BOWL, DON'T EAT FROM IT
You're excited, you're probably hungry, and excited to share food with some of your favorite people. You see the table full of food and snacks. You grab the biggest size plate (the "super bowl"), and you start to stack it like a bunch of linemen. You sit down, and you run your offense. The offense: EAT. You eat and eat... and eat some more... and eat some more. Before you know it, the plate is not even done (or maybe it is) and what started as a pleasurable food experience is now a dreadful slowed-down result. You can't move because you feel stuffed. A lot of things could've broken the play. Maybe it was too much pizza this round, maybe it was too many wings. Who knows?
... or maybe it was the "super bowl. Now I know that many people don't actually eat from a bowl during the big game, but hear me out: Your eyes will deceive you. Perhaps you saw the plate for more than what it was. Perhaps you stacked it with food because, in your mind, you saw it as a super big bowl. Perhaps you envision your stomach as a super bowl, able to fit any quantity that you put inside of it. The truth is that your stomach is not a bottomless pit. It gets full and sometimes over-full. It is an overall better indicator of your hunger/fullness than your eyes will ever be. How do I know this?
2. HUDDLE on your HUNGER and don't FUMBLE your FULLNESS.
Your hunger hormone (ghrelin) and fullness hormone (leptin) are produced mainly in the stomach. Ghrelin tells the brain that it is time to eat. Leptin tells the brain that you've had enough (satiety). Due to considerations like stress or emotional eating, it is easy to ignore these brain signals and continue to eat even when our stomachs are full and continue fasting even when our stomachs are in need of food (although it's not always this simple). Still, we can practically develop an awareness of our hunger and fullness. It can come in handy this Super Bowl Sunday. This graphic can help you gauge your hunger and fullness. I found it on the Dietitian Success Center, Inc. which they adapted from the Intuitive Eating Workbook, a resource created by a few dietitians. It is a very useful visual. Here are some key takeaways from my perspective:
3-7: Balance. This is where we should strive to be at all times. This is the most controlled our hunger and fullness can be. We should catch our hunger before it gets to...
1-2: Over-hungry. At this point, you are bound to grab any and every-thing you see in your sight. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach and before knowing it, you're...
8-10: Over-full. In some cases, even regret. At this point, you feel heavy, bloated, & lethargic. Food is supposed to be a source of energy & what you feel is the opposite.
We live in a society of mindless eating. You must take a moment and think. Reflect on how you use food. It is not easy at first, but as you begin to pay attention to your eating experience rather than just shoving food down the end zone, you'll become more aware of how food makes you feel. This year, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles advanced to the biggest stage of football not by chance, but by practice. They formed winning habits and executed their game plan throughout the season. The same goes for you. Take these next couple of days to think about your Sunday Game Plan to ensure you enjoy food and drinks responsibly. Practice what it's like to anticipate your hunger and recognize your fullness. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself at any given point of the night:
Am I really hungry or am I upset my team is down?
Do I need that right now or can I wait it out a bit?
Did I fill this plate up out of hunger or necessity/self-control?
When was the last time I had a glass of water tonight?
Always remember that the winner is: The Most Mindful YOU.
Gregory Lafortune, MS, RDN, LD