Mindful eating has received a great deal of attention in recent years. It’s been shown to assist us with weight loss, healthier food choices, digestion and prevent disease. It may sound like a no-brainer but not many of us truly comprehend what it means. In this week’s article I discuss how to eat mindfully so you can take back the power when eating and achieve your health goals.
Digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system. It takes about twenty minutes for the brain to register satiety or fullness. There’s growing evidence that shows if we eat while distracted by typing or driving our digestion is altered. This may result in us not absorbing nutrients effectively.
It’s easy to wolf down a sandwich at your desk or a block of dairy milk in front of Netflix. One moment you’re grabbing it from the kitchen and the next you reach for the packet and it’s empty. Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking. It helps us uncover our motivation for food choices and consider our thoughts and feelings around feeding.
The majority of us already eat on autopilot so it’s useful to consider what long term habits you’ve already developed. You may munch and crunch as you’re walking down the street, sip on coffee in the car or nibble over your mobile during lunch. Awareness of your routine is crucial, so you can start to make change.
Habits that have been established for decades can be hard to alter so take small steps. Start by taking tiny bites of your meal or sips of your morning coffee while paying full attention to your actions. Chew or drink slowly and focus on the flavour and how it feels to swallow. Become aware of your fullness. These small changes will help you engage in the moment.
Start to eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV, close your laptop and move your phone away. You may not always be able to remove every distraction as locking your boss, husband or child away isn’t a digestible solution. Aim to eat just a few meals a week mindfully by closing your office door or asking your family to eat in silence for the first five minutes.
If you struggle to slow down then check your watch and try and take twenty minutes to eat a standard meal. You can further slow yourself down by eating with your non-dominant hand or put your utensils down between bites. Start to pause before reaching for food and ask yourself if you’re really hungry or simply covering up tiredness, boredom or nervous energy.
The ability to eat intuitively is in all of us. As babies we knew when we were hungry and stopped eating when we were full. We don’t want to place so much pressure on our eating that we lose our mind but by making a few thoughtful changes we can mastermind a healthier existence.