How To Practice Mindful Eating For A Healthier Mind & Body
Mindfulness has been a recurring theme in the health and wellness industry lately and with good reason. In our fast paced world, many people spend a good portion of their time either worrying about future events, or fretting over the past, causing issues like stress and anxiety.
Mindful living is about letting go of the past and future, and instead focusing on the present moment. It is about slowing down, and paying close attention to what you are doing right now, whether it’s working, walking, talking, or even eating.
Mindful Vs. Mindless Eating
We all know that the quality of the food we eat can have a big impact on our overall health, but rarely do we consider the impact of how we eat our food (even though it may be just as important).
The average Westerner will rush to work in the morning, maybe eating breakfast on the run, often not. They then spend the day trying to scoff down snacks in between meetings, or whenever they can grab a few spare minutes. After a long day, they collapse in front of the TV and pick up the takeaway menu.
Rinse and repeat.
Because of our busy lives, many of us have become completely disconnected from the food we put into our bodies. We opt for speed and convenience over quality. We eat mindlessly, our fast food a mirror image of our fast paced minds and bodies. We rarely consider where our food has come from, how it tastes, how it actually makes us feel, or what it is doing for our health.
The Benefits of Mindful Eating
Being mindful of your food can really help with any digestive issues such as bloating, constipation and other disorders. Digestion starts in the mouth when enzymes in your saliva act on the food, but when you eat in a rush, this process is bypassed and the rest of your digestive system has to work harder. By taking the time to slow down, sit down and just step away from the noise of the world for a few moments, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system which controls digestive enzymes.
Mindful eating can also reduce the likelihood of you overeating. When you rush your food or eat with distractions, you’re much more inclined to eat more than you need which can cause weight gain.
You may also find that eating mindfully will help you make healthier choices more often. When you pay attention to what you’re really putting into your body, you tend to favour things that will nourish you, as opposed to doing you harm.
Don’t Take Our Word. Try it For Yourself.
Once a week, rather than reaching for the takeaway menu or heating up a ready meal, set some time aside to prepare your own healthy meal, just for you or for you and your family. You may want to pick a weekend, when you have a little more spare time.
If you’re looking for ideas, here are a few simple, healthy recipes to get you started. Pick a new recipe and follow it carefully, always doing your best to remain present and focused on the task at hand.
When preparing your ingredients, focus intently on each chop of the knife. Pay attention to how each ingredient smells when it’s raw, and how it changes when it’s cooking. Enjoy the process.
When the time comes to eat, rather than slouching in front of the TV, sit at the dinner table. Eliminate any distractions – no phones, no music, no laptops or books. Just you, your meal, and perhaps the company of your loved ones.
Before you eat, you may want to say a short prayer or take a moment of gratitude. There are many people out there who do not have access to clean water, let alone healthy food. By cultivating this sense of gratitude, you shift into the present moment and provide an opportunity to shift your perspective.
When you begin to eat, rather than eating your food as quickly as possible, chew slowly, several times. This will likely unlock new flavors that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Savour the tastes and smells, and look out for different textures.
If you are with loved ones or friends, make the conversation centered on the food you are eating, rather than what happened at school or work. Always try your best to remain present, and enjoy the experience.
No Excuses. Just Take A Moment.
Even if you are always on the go, you can still apply these principles in your every day schedule by just incorporating a few of these principles. Taking time to chew your food or taste the flavor, making smarter food choices, slowing down and unplugging during mealtime can make a difference.
Even if you just have 10 minutes for a quick smoothie, try to sit down, unplug technology, sit in silence and just be present. Like any habit change, start with a small goal like one meal a week. You will feel so much better that you will want to incorporate a little mindfulness in every meal.
Before you know it, you may have a completely different relationship with your food, and a healthier body and mind to go with it.