Practicing Mindful Eating
It’s not only about what you eat, but it’s also about how you eat! If you ever have digestion problems, I understand what you’re going through. It’s so frustrating when you try a million different things to improve your digestion, but nothing seems to work. Part of why I know so much about nutrition is actually because I’ve studied and experimented with so many different dietary theories in hope that a new way of eating would heal my digestive system.
I soon discovered that it wouldn’t matter that I was eating the cleanest food in the word if I was always in a state of sympathetic nervous system (aka a state of “fight or flight”). When you’re in “fight or flight”, your body shuts down the non-essential functions - such as digestion - and puts all of its energy into fleeing from danger. Our modern society is so fast paced. And with all of our technology and social media apps competing for our attention, of course it can seem difficult to get some quiet time to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (aka the state of “rest and digest”). But when we’re calm and relaxed, we actually digest and assimilate our food more with more ease. This is why it’s really important to eat mindfully. How does one eat mindfully though?
Here are my top tips for mindful eating:
1. Connect with your breath.
Deep breathing is known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Closing your eyes and taking five or ten deep breaths before eating helps you get into “rest and digest” so that you can digest your meal optimally. Be sure to keep breathing during your meal as well. It can help to check in with yourself half-way through, and ask yourself if you are still breathing and if you could slow down a bit more.
2. Practice gratitude.
Before you eat, take a moment to reflect on where your food came from and how fortunate you are to be nourishing your cells with such a delicious meal. The seeds, the soil, the water, the sun, the farmers, the truck drivers, the grocery store employees, and whoever prepared your food all contributed to meal on your plate. There is so much to be grateful for, and expressing gratitude is known to calm the nervous system.
3. Chew your food.
Slow down and eat with an intention of fully chewing your food. Chewing your food will not only help you eat more slowly, but it will also improve your digestion because digestion actually starts in your mouth. Your saliva contains enzymes that help break down the food. It’s recommended to chew each bite 30 times. It can help to count your chews for the first few weeks as you get into the habit of chewing.
4. Engage all of your senses.
Making an effort to really experience your meal with all of your senses will help you stay present. This makes the dining experience much more enjoyable too. Look at the beautiful colours, savor the tastes, notice the textures, and enjoy the delicious smell of your food. You can even listen to the crunching sound that can be heard with each bite.
5. Put down your utensil.
If your utensil is always in hand, it can be so easy to shovel the next bite into your moth before you’ve chewed the previous one. Putting down your utensil in-between bites is a simple and effective method for remembering to eat slowly.
6. Eat your meals technology-free.
Eating while staring at our cellphones, laptops, or televisions is becoming more and more common in our modern-day society. It’s much easier to be present, stay calm, and eat mindfully without the abundance of screens, posts, and notifications that all compete for our attention.
7. Sit down.
This sounds funny, but it’s important. We’re always “on-the-go” these days. It has become common to eat while walking or driving. I also used to eat very quickly at my kitchen counter whenever I was in a rush. To get into the “rest and digest” state though, it’s a good idea to sit down, be comfortable, and relax while eating.
8. Enjoy it.
Embody a mindset of joy. Mindful eating really transforms the dining experience to something that is so special and enjoyable. The first time I tried to eat mindfully, it felt like a chore! I then realized that with a subtle mindset shift, it could actually be something that I love and look forward to.
9. Own your worth.
You are worthy of the time it takes to enjoy mindful eating. Our culture is very much a “busy culture”. But taking the time to be present, enjoy our meals, and fully nourish our cells actually gives us more time because in the long run. It helps us to be calm, rejuvenated, and fully fuelled to be productive and do whatever it is that we need to do.
10. Transition your eating habits slowly.
Change is known to trigger stress, and eating every meal mindfully can seem overwhelming at first. Start with eating one mindful meal each day. You can also try using just one of the previously mentioned tips at each meal. Slowly, as you practice mindful eating more and more, things will snowball, and mindful eating will become second-nature.
Have you ever tried mindful eating? Do you have any other tips for eating mindfully? Let me know in the comments below!
Lots of love,