The typical American eating the typical American diet eats on the run, eats in the car, eats at their desk, eats in front of the TV, or eats standing in the kitchen. It’s become a rarity to actually take time for food and sit down to eat a meal without any distractions.
Regardless of WHAT we are eating, I want to address HOW we are eating first. As you powered through your latest meal, did you taste it? Did you chew it? Did you even know what was in it? (Oh there was sugar in that salad dressing?) Were you hungry when you started eating? Were you still hungry when you finished? How did the food make you feel? (Not just physically, but emotionally as well) Did you feel satisfied with the meal or were you still craving for something more?
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is simply being aware of the food you are putting in your body, the nourishing benefits it may have, and how it makes you feel.
A huge part of behavioral change surrounding food starts with being aware of how our food is making us feel. Our bodies are equipped with an amazing innate intelligence that will tell us (if we are listening…) exactly what we need for optimal health.
Why is mindful eating important?
To understand why being mindful while we eat is so important we first have to understand a little about how our bodies digest food. The digestion process begins in the BRAIN, not in the mouth. Before food even touches the mouth, our senses (mostly sight and smell) are telling our brain to begin the digestion process. The brain signals the salivary glands to start producing saliva, which contains digestive enzymes necessary for the complete breakdown of carbohydrates. The digestive process is a parasympathetic process. So, if our brain is in a stressed or “sympathetic” state, it will not begin the digestion process, creating a cascade of maldigestion issues. It is so important that we take time and relax before we eat.
What are the best ways to become mindful when eating?
First, we need to set time aside to eat and digest. Eating and multitasking is not working for our health. We need to eat while sitting down in a comfortable environment without distractions. This includes, phones, computers, books, TVs. We need to bring the focus back to our food. This does not mean you have to eat by yourself and be a total outcast. It has been shown that eating with friends and people that make you happy put you in an even better state for digestion. And good conversation will slow down the rate you eat, making it easier for your body to digest.
Before you start eating, SMELL your food. PAUSE, RELAX and give thanks for your food. Give your brain a chance to start the digestion process. I like to think about where my food came from. What processes had to happen for this chicken or carrot (fish, pizza, burrito, Etc.) to end up on my plate? These things spend months growing and being cultivated and we eat them in mere seconds. We have become so disconnected with our food it is no wonder our bodies aren’t getting the nutrients they need to be healthy.
CHEW your food, give your saliva a chance to start the breakdown of the carbohydrates. SLOW DOWN, even more. Be conscious of how your body feels, before, during, and after you eat. START A FOOD JOURNAL documenting your mood and how you are feeling. It will help you to start making the connection between what you are eating and how you feel. After you are finished eating, take a minute to stay seated and relaxed. Don’t just jump back into activity. Give your body time to digest.
Eating healthy foods that nourish your body is important, but you will not get the nourishing benefits of the food unless you are able to completely digest them. The easiest and best way to start your journey to better health is to eat mindfully.
If you have questions or need more information, I’m here to help! Contact me to set up a free consultation.