What is mindful eating, and what are the benefits?
Mindful eating looks at the why of eating, rather than the what. The goal is to bring awareness of your thoughts and feelings that drive your choices surrounding food – like how much, when, and what to eat. We’ll learn how to turn inward to listen to the internal cues and sensations.
How does mindfulness affect overall wellness and holistic health?
According to holistic health experts, Nisha Chellam, MD, and Amanda Kozimor-Perrin MS, RDN of Parsley Health, staying mindful while eating has more than just mental benefits.
Mindfulness is hard in this very distracted world we live in. However, the simple focus on the smell of the food, the sight of food colors, the way it is prepared – as well as sitting down when eating – helps us appreciate and realize the quality of the food we’re eating.
The most significant change people can make with eating is simply chewing the food. Studies have shown up to 40 chews of one mouthful of food will help the digestive process, helping people lose weight and decreasing illness.
Mindfulness is incredibly important in all aspects of your health, but especially in regard to your digestion and connection to food. When you aren’t present in your meals, eat in a distracted state, eat quickly, or always feel like you are thinking about other things you need to get done, you are living in your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). This system releases a hormone called cortisol, which is part of your stress response. When cortisol is released, your body is unable to optimally digest the food you are eating, leading to malabsorption and digestive symptoms like bloating, heartburn, belching, or gas. It can also cause dysregulation with your blood sugar leading to overconsumption, not listening to your hunger satiety cues, or craving sugary foods. So, when we practice mindfulness, and especially mindful eating, we are able to be in a space to slow down to eat and allow our bodies to digest and utilize the nutrients as it was designed to.
How do I practice mindful eating?
There are many ways to practice mindful eating. A simple and quick daily mindfulness practice can help us connect with our bodies and nourish us: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here are 6 ways to practice mindfulness around mealtimes.
1. Listen To Your Internal Hunger Cues
One part of mindful eating is thinking about your hunger on a scale. Start eating when you feel around 3 - hungry but not “hangry”, and finish at around 7 - when you’re full, but not uncomfortably so.
2. Enjoy the Wait
While you heat your meal, resist the temptation to return to your to-do list. Can you turn a few minutes of waiting into an opportunity to relax into the present moment?
3. Show Up For Your Meal
Schedule time in your calendar for your daily mindful meal. When the time arrives, prepare your meal. Remove any distractions, and sit down.
4. Take Time To Be Grateful
Bring your thoughts to your food. Think about how it was created. From the farmers who grew the produce, to the chefs who carefully combined the ingredients. Feel thankful for this energy.
5. Count Your Chews
As you eat, count your chews. Notice if your mind wants you to chew and count faster. Can you slow down? Can you ease into the rhythm of counting and nourishing?
6. Appreciate Your Food
Slowly eat your meal. You can even close your eyes, noting the flavor and texture of every mouthful.
Mindful eating can result in greater awareness of our food choices, and in turn, greater acceptance and better self-esteem. For more mindfulness and meditation tips, check out our blog.
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