2.01.2018

What Mindful Eating Is, And How To Practice It


Mindfulness is not just a buzzword. An adjective, yes, but more than that, a practice.
Its ironic, despite living in the most calorie-abundant place and era, we still act like everything on our plate could be swiped from us in a instant. I've seen people eating that more closely resemble a pack of wolves scarfing down their freshly hunted prey than a human sitting down to eat a civilized meal. Whatever happened to enjoying food, savoring food?
We eat while we drive and while we watch tv, opting for a drive thru window instead of a sit down meal. And I get it, life is busy. But we often don't respect the art of eating, giving it only the last of our time and attention. It's often something we have to do, not get to do. The drive-thru culture.

What is mindful eating? 
Mindful eating is eating without distraction, with your full focus on the meal before you. From the Center for Mindful Eating:
Mindful Eating is:
  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. 
  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.   
  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.
  • Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.
Why we should eat mindfully 
When we're aware of what and how we're eating. Digestion is a complex process, and requires a plethora or hormonal signals in order to trigger the system. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to recognize satiety (to tell you when you feel full). So how can we expect our bodies to work efficiently when we're scarfing down a sandwich within 10 minutes? It's easy to overeat when you're taking another bite every 30 seconds. Our bodies just aren't meant to keep up.

Digestion shuts down when our bodies are in the sympathetic nervous system (fight or fight). So we need to be in parasympathetic mode in order to digest efficiently. But that can't happen when we're distracted, rushed, or stressed. Ever eaten a meal when you're on a time crunch? You're left feeling unsatisfied, and maybe even nauseous or bloated.



How to eat mindfully 
Now that we know what it is, how do we practically implement some mindful eating practices into our daily routine? What may seem like a small, unimportant habit may actually be hindering your experience with food. Small steps can make big differences. So here's some simple tips that will surely make your mealtimes more enjoyable and beneficial experiences:

Chew more
In the West, we tend eat to fast. But did you know you're supposed to chew at least 25 times before swallowing? Yeah, seems like a lot. As Robyn Youkilis likes to say, "Newsflash: your stomach doesn't have teeth." Don't make things harder on your stomach than they should be! Digestion begins in the mouth, and saliva has an important role in the process. Don't by bypass it!

Put your fork down
In between taking bites, put your fork down. Really. Just do it. It's actually much harder than it sounds. If you're constantly looking for your next bite of food, how can you enjoy what's already in your mouth? Take a bite. Put your utensil down, (no, not to grab another forkful) and focus on what you're currently eating. Let go of your food for a moment. It's okay. It's not going anywhere.

Eat with your left hand...
...if you're right-handed. If you're a lefty, try eating with your right! The point is to eat with your non-dominant hand. This practice compels you slow down, to be aware of the fine motor skills it takes to simply take a bite of salad. It literally forces you to be mindful of how you're eating.

Eat without distraction
Ever sit down in front of the TV with a bag of chips, only to look down a few minutes later and realize you've eaten the entire thing? Yeah, me too. Humans don't multitask well, and if your brain is focused on whatever Netflix show you're currently bingeing, it's way too easy to just mechanically shove food into your mouth without giving it a second thought. Be present with your meal. Whether you're enjoying it alone, or it's family dinner or a meal with friends.

Cook!
One of the easiest way to implement mindful eating is to simply make your own food. It's easy to rip into a bowl of microwaved nuggets without a second thought, but when you've taken the time to prepare your own meal, it makes it easier to savor. As much as technology has advanced, someone, somewhere is still making your food. Food production and preparation is not without the human hand. So, even if it's just boiling pasta, work toward making your own hands a part of that preparation.

Which tip are you going to try implementing in your routine? Let me know!

Good luck,
Melanie

(photo by Ali Inay)

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