Guest Post by Naga Sanapally
Is your “Mind Missing” when you are eating your lunch or dinner?
When you sit down to your next meal, hopefully you are actually sitting to eat and not just eating on the go doing multiple activities at the same time, while you eat! Ask yourself these simple questions:
• Am I preoccupied—thinking about work, family, driving, school, relationships, or health anxieties instead of my meal?
• Am I disregarding the way my food looks, sounds, tastes, and smells?
• Am I eating even though I’m not actually hungry?
• Do I really just want this food because I’m into emotional eating?
• Am I consuming foods that are harmful to my gut microbiome or my overall health?
• Am I feeling pressured to finish eating so I can get back to do more “important” things?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you’re certainly not eating mindfully! Accepting this fact is the first step towards being mindful while eating meals.
Let’s look at how you can establish an effective mindful eating practice so that you enjoy your food and assist your body in the process of digestion to maximise absorption of nutrients while eating.
The Connection between Mindfulness and Eating
According to the ‘Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch’ article published by (Harvard Medical School), “Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” Applying the mindfulness concept to eating goes beyond the individual and encompasses how what you eat affects the world.
Bringing mindfulness to the table means a kinder, gentler approach to eating. The focus isn’t necessarily on changing the food we eat but it’s on changing our thinking around food.
Human relationship to food is an essential facet that reflects our attitudes towards the environment and ourselves. Mindful eating can bring consciousness to our own actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations, as well as insight into the roots of health and contentment.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is an approach to food that focuses on being fully present while you’re eating. It increases awareness of your thoughts, senses and feelings during and after you eat. Significantly, when we are talking about mindful eating, it’s not just a matter of saying ‘I watch what I eat’ or ‘I’m mindful of what I eat’. It’s about being in the moment when you eat and truly listening to and trusting your body’s cues for when, how much and what to eat in any given situation. Mindful eating unlocks an opportunity to appreciate food more and helps to make a better connection with it. It involves observing how the food makes you feel and the signals, your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
Aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients: Eating mindfully with awareness enables you to chew food more thoroughly, making it easier to digest whilst allowing the body to absorb the nutrients from what you are eating more effectively and efficiently. Food needs to be broken down into small pieces, to get absorbed in the small intestine. Therefore, the more you chew the food, the more it helps ease digestion. Derive greater pleasure from what you eat, by learning to slow down during the eating process.
Food tastes better: When you focus on the sensations of eating, flavours become much more dynamic and vibrant.
Prevents overeating and food hangovers: To eat mindfully, you have to eat slowly and as it takes longer to eat, the stomach has time to signal the brain when it is actually full.
Reduces food cravings: Through eating with awareness, you start to tune into the subtle signals your body is sending relating to hunger and cravings. Eating mindfully helps to reconnect your body's inner wisdom to bring awareness of physical hunger, which nutrients you might be needing and satiety cues.
Helps you lose weight: Mindful eating allows you to eat in a healthier and more balanced way. Mindful eating helps you eat less and feel fuller. Awareness of when you are actually physically hungry and knowing when to stop eating can help in eating the right amount of food as well as enhance your metabolism. When you pay attention to your body’s real needs and put an end to the stress and/or emotional eating, you naturally start improving your eating habits and it is likely that weight regulation will generally take care of itself.
Create your Perfect Regime for Eating Mindfully
- Start the day off by eating breakfast mindfully. If you are new to this practice, begin with one meal at a time.
- Stay away from distractions while eating, turn off your TV, computer and phone. Step away from your workspace. Find a designated place to eat meals and snacks, such as the kitchen table or out in the garden or local park.
- Notice your likes and dislikes surrounding food without placing judgement. Being judgmental about your meals can divert from mindfulness and lead to increased stress and anxiety.
- Observe your food. What does your food look like? How does the food smell? How does your food sound when you pick it up with your fork? Experience the distinct aroma of every type of food on your plate. Digestive processes start before you put the food into your mouth through anticipation from the aromas and how the food looks, long before you taste food. This process triggers the release of digestive enzymes.
- What is the texture? What is the flavour (sweet, sour, bitter)? What do you notice when you chew? Hold the food in your mouth and become aware of its taste, shape, texture, and temperature. Then chew slowly and thoroughly, focusing on the sensations in your mouth. As you swallow, stay with the sensation of the food as it enters your oesophagus.
- Put your knife and fork or spoon down on the plate between mouthfuls to avoid hurrying to prepare the next mouthful to put on your fork.
- Check-in with your hunger and fullness levels. When you are eating, pay attention to how you are feeling. Are you still hungry or do you feel full? It may be helpful to determine when to stop eating.
- Show gratitude-give thanks to your food for providing you with nourishment. This practice is a great way to foster mindfulness. Enjoy the contentment of feeling satiated, and in your own unique way, give thanks for the nutrition you have consumed.
Eating mindfully is a way to relish what you are eating whilst being in tune with your body and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings. It can help to encourage positive eating behaviours and healthy eating choices as you choose foods that are nourishing as well as satisfying to your body.
The Centre for Mindful Eating has a wealth of resources for people wishing to learn more about mindful eating and begin mindful eating practices. The Centre for Mindful Eating - Introduction to Mindful Eating
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