In the age of food abundance and 24 hour lifestyles, when do you have the time to enjoy your food, and make healthy choices? Thus, few people do mindful eating.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is eating with minimal distractions—a Buddhist spiritual concept. That means, when you take the time out to eat, you’re enjoying it with intent and health consciousness. There are two aspects to mindful eating, eating to take care of yourself, and eating to feel the goodness of what you are eating.
Fundamentally, mindful eating involves:
•Eating slowly and without distraction.
•Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you’re full.
•Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating.
•Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes.
•Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
•Eating to maintain overall health and well-being.
•Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure.
•Appreciating your food.
Constant daily pressures have led to people living in the flight or fight mode perpetually. Deadlines at work, traffic, financial pressures, family quarrels and so on. Such constant stress disrupts the digestive process.
Eating has become a mindless act, often done quickly, which can be problematic, since it actually takes the brain up to 20 minutes to realize you’re full. Distractions like the television or work make subconsciously rushes you through the eating process as quickly as possible. The eater bites larger chunks of food and chews less thoroughly. Digesting larger chunks is harder to break down, which means there are problems with bloating and indigestion.
•Emotional eating: Eating in response to certain emotions
• External eating: Eating in response to environmental food-related cues, such as the sight or smell of food
In a nutshell, mindful eating helps you distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. It also increases your awareness of food-related triggers, and gives you the freedom to choose your response to them.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
By being mindful of what you eat, you change your way of thinking about food. You will not look at eating as a way of managing your stress or as a distraction.
There is better emotional management with proper eating habits. Stopping to rest, eat and digest food will give the body time to repair both physically and mentally—balancing your stress and relaxing your hormones.
You develop better timing while you eat—giving your body the allocated time needed for digestion. You will know when to eat and when to stop eating because you have truly had enough. This avoids common indigestion problems and discomfort.
By eating mindfully, you restore your attention and slow down, making eating an intentional act instead of an automatic one. Also, by increasing your recognition of physical hunger and fullness cues, you’ll be able to distinguish between emotional and actual physical hunger.
Most importantly, you will have better health as you can address your body’s nutritional needs. Food is essential in developing the body’s immunity against common ailments.
Follow these simple rules, and be on your mindful eating way:
• Eat in a calm environment (try not to eat in your car, sit at the dinner table vs. the couch)
• Chew your food, when you slow down you can be conscious of your chewing your food to reduce indigestion and gastrointestinal issues
• Take breaks in between bites
• Choose your dinner conversation, try and keep only positive topics around the dinner table. Leave finance or to do conversations separate from when you are eating to help your body enter a rest and digest (parasympathetic stage).
• Enjoy your meal! Get back to having a great relationship with food. Taste; enjoy each bite to enhance pleasure in our day.
To begin with, it is a good idea to pick one meal per day, to focus on these points.
Once you’ve got the hang of this, mindfulness will become more natural. Then you can focus on implementing these habits into more meals, throughout the day!
Interested in learning more?
•Web: This website lists 50 mindful eating web resources.
•Video: This is a short video introduction to mindful eating.
•Meditation: Here is a short meditation to help manage food cravings.