Where do you fall on the scale of mindful to mindless eating? Are you a grab a sandwich while running to the train and chatting on the phone kind of person or do you take the time to savour each bite of a carefully prepared home cooked meal? Eating in a mindful way has been shown to impact how we digest and metabolise our food. This means it can have a huge impact on our overall health and even our weight.
Today I will investigate what eating mindfully actually means, what the benefits are and how you can practice mindful eating yourself with some simple steps including:
Prepare in advance
Sit to eat
Start with three deep breaths
Use your senses
End with three deep breaths.
What does mindful eating mean?
Mindfulness is being aware of what is happening in the present moment. Practically speaking, this means bringing attention to sensations and feelings without judgment. So, mindful eating is being aware of the smell, taste, and texture, and even sound of your food while you are eating it.
What are the benefits of mindful eating?
Science is proving that eating in a mindful way has lots of benefits for our health. Mindful eating can help with:
Blood sugar regulation
Food and sugar cravings
How do you practice mindful eating?
What you do when you sit down to eat plays a big part in mindful eating, but it's not the only thing to consider. If you want to eat mindfully, your practice starts with what, when, where, and even why you are eating. These decisions are usually made hours, days, or weeks before you sit down for a meal. So here are some things to consider in advance:
1. What you eat
Bringing more awareness to your food choices can have a positive impact on your digestion, health, weight, and even your emotions. A great place to practice mindfulness around your meals is the grocery shop. I make healthier food choices when I stick to a weekly meal plan and shopping list. Plus, I try to avoid food shopping while I'm hungry - it's a recipe for a shopping trolley full of cake!
2. When you eat
Our body needs the most fuel from food during the day as this is when our energy expenditure is highest. So, eating a larger breakfast and lunch with a smaller dinner is a good idea. Bring more awareness to your meal timings by sticking to a regular eating pattern and adjusting meal portions to the time of day.
3. Where you are eating
What environment do you usually eat in? Is it a quiet, calm, and spacious environment where you can practice being present to the sensations of eating? Or are you eating on the run, in your car, at a busy café? These things can impact how we experience, digest, and metabolise our food.
4. Why you eat
How different would you're eating habits be if every meal was simply a chance to fill yourself up on vital nutrients? We tend to confuse our food as something to comfort, soothe, or excite us. This can lead to poor food choices and ultimately poor health. That doesn't mean eating mindfully has to be boring or unenjoyable, in fact, the opposite is true. Have a look at our recipe section for delicious, healthy, and exciting meals.
How do you eat mindfully?
Once you've considered the what, when, where and why of eating, you can sit yourself down with your meal and implement the following tips:
1. Sit to eat
It's tempting to multitask during your lunch break. But eating on the move is really not great for our digestion. Research shows that standing or moving around while we eat can be a recipe for gas and bloating. Posture also impacts our digestive transit time and potential for bloating and gas too. Sit up straight with your shoulders away from your ears to avoid a poorly digested meal. Try to relax your muscles and notice if you are tensing your shoulders or clenching your jaw.
2. Start with three deep breaths
Before launching yourself on the plate of food in front of you, take a moment to close your eyes and take three deep breaths. This is a great moment to pause and say a silent thanks. Conjuring up feelings of gratitude has a positive impact on our digestion. Studies on gratitude found that participants who felt grateful had a marked reduction in their levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Gratitude regulates the sympathetic nervous system that activates our stress response, which when activated, affects our ability to digest food well.
3. Use your senses
As you eat, notice how each mouthful tastes. Chew each mouthful 20 times. The better we chew our food, the less work our digestive system has to do. Lots of digestive enzymes are released in the mouth and the mechanical action of chewing helps the stomach metabolise and break down food. This helps move food through efficiently and avoid bloating.
4. No distractions
Avoid doing any other activities while you are eating. That means putting your phone away and turning off the T.V I'm afraid. If you are a dinnertime chatterbox, you can end up swallowing air with your food, which often leads to excess wind and bloating. Having music or the T.V playing loudly hides the noise chewing your food makes. Researchers have found that the more you can hear yourself crunching and munching your food the less likely you are to overeat. So listening to yourself chew is actually quite important for weight balance.
5. End with three deep breaths
End your meal as you started by taking three deep breaths. Deep breathing is helpful for our digestion in a number of ways. The diaphragm is a muscle located underneath the ribcage and it moves and changes shape as we breathe. When we breathe deeply this movement helps to massage the digestive tract that helps things move along efficiently. Deep breathing is excellent for regulating the nervous system. The digestive system and nervous system are linked, so anything that keeps your nervous system in balance will help your digestive system too.
My Self-Care Tip: Getting started with mindful eating