While we are in quarantine a lot of us are cooking more than ever and perhaps eating more too! There’s a lot advice and inspiration for what to feed ourselves right now but I wanted to share a healthy tool around how we eat versus what we eat – called mindful eating. I believe it could be of huge benefit during these stressful and uncertain times.
What is mindful eating? It’s simply the practice of eating intentionally and with awareness.
The practice of mindfulness has become mainstream at this point with increasing scientific research supporting its benefits – as an intervention for depression and anxiety to IBS and simply for more happiness.
In our busy lives we often rush through our meals multi-tasking or distracted by our to do list and now, the state of the world. Mindless and distracted eating creates disconnection with your body’s natural hunger and satiation cues and can continue cycles of binge eating or emotional eating. Over time these eating habits can sabotage your well-intended health goals.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
According to a review of studies on mindful eating, “Increased mindful eating has been shown to help participants gain awareness of their bodies, be more in tune to hunger and satiety, recognize external cues to eat, gain self compassion, decrease food cravings, decrease problematic eating, and decrease reward-driven eating.”
In addition to these benefits mindful eating is also an opportunity to have a restful and meditative experience during these uncertain times several times a day.
So now that you know all the reasons to love mindful eating, here are 3 steps on how to get started and incorporate this practice in your life.
1. Slow down
At the heart of a mindful eating practice is to slow down and trigger a rest and digest (parasympathetic state) to set the stage for eating. When your body is in the opposite state, the sympathetic or fight/flight state your body will be preparing to use energy for the “emergency” it senses instead of digesting food.
Take a pause before your meal. Take a few deep breaths. You can also give gratitude/ pray. Pay attention to your food with all your senses – the aroma, the colors the smells the textures as you do this you’re stimulating your appetite and digestive juices.
It also takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register your fullness so allowing your self the time for your brain to catch up is also a good reason to slow down and how it helps you understand your hunger and satiation cues.
2. Chew, chew and chew ….
How many of us are actually chewing our food? Try chewing your food 30 times until it’s pretty much liquid.
And between bites put your utensils down so you really give yourself a chance to chew. The act of chewing and your saliva flowing triggers the digestive juices to flow so it’s ready to do its job.
Most importantly don’t multi-task. We are obsessed with productivity and I am certainly guilty. The worst thing you can do is catchup with the news on your phone while you’re eating.
3. Post meal pause
At the end of the meal let yourself continue in this state for a while longer. Instead of jumping up onto the next thing sit at the table for a few more minutes. And if you are super ambitious go for a walk outside to help things move along in your digestive tract.
I know all of this sounds indulgent and you might be thinking, who has time to linger and eat their meals like this? But think of it as an act of self-care at the most foundational level. The food you consume breaks down and fuels you, it becomes your tissues, your hormones, your blood, etc.
It doesn’t have to take 2 hours, even if you only have 30 minutes your intentionality will count.
Try it with one meal this week.
I challenge you to pick one meal to try this practice this week and make note of how you feel whether it’s during breakfast or a snack.
I suggest mindful eating with all my clients as I help them connect with their bodies. It is one of the first steps towards improving your relationship with food and making better choices.
Dunn, Carolyn, et al. “Mindfulness Approaches and Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Weight Regain.” Current Obesity Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29446036.