What is mindful eating?
In simple terms mindful eating is paying attention to the food in front of you and being present when you’re eating meals. Take the time to enjoy the nourishment.
When our minds are tuned out during mealtime, the brain does not properly receive signals that indicate hunger and fullness. As a result, overeating and obesity are perhaps the most significant health problems caused, at least in part, by mindless eating. What’s more is that when the mind is "multi-tasking" during eating, our digestive process is 30-40% less effective. This leads to digestive upset including gas, bloating and bowel irregularities. Bringing awareness to our food is something I recommend to patients to help manage weight, improve their digestion and overall health.
Mindful eating generally leads to slower eating. This gives the brain time to process signals of satiety, which helps prevent over-eating. Furthermore, mindfulness brings your body back into a relaxed state known as parasympathetic mode. Because your parasympathetic nervous system controls you digestion, it is also known as “rest and digest”. Therefore, mindful eating sets up the right conditions for your body to properly digest food, helping decrease any unwanted digestive symptoms.
Try out this mindful eating exercise:
- Eat sitting down
- Place your food on a dish (never eat from a package, box, bag, etc.)
Before you begin your meals:
- Take 3 deep breaths
- Take a second to be grateful for the food in front of you
- Notice how you are feeling emotionally and label that feeling (this will help bring awareness to patterns and connections in our emotional eating habits)
- Look at your food, notice the shape, colour and texture
- Smell your food before you take your first bite
During the meal:
- Think about the taste and savour the flavours
- Explore the texture
- Chew at least 30-40 times before swallowing
Other simple steps to introduce mindful eating:
- Eat with your non-dominant hand
- Eat with chopsticks
- Come up with a mantra you recite before eating (E.g.: “Eat to nourish and energize”)
When it comes to mindful eating, preparation of your food is also important. Cooking requires us to use our senses and taking the time to prepare meals can actually enhance our awareness of the smells, flavours, sounds and textures of our food. Even if you are just assembling leftovers or a quick snack, placing food onto a dish will bring your attention to what’s in front of you and keep you aware of how much you are taking in.