All About Mindful Eating
Being mindful when eating is an absolute game-changer. In our fast-paced society, where everything is go-go-go, and people are often eating on the run, in a rush or distracted in front of the TV or their computer, taking a step back to switch on and tune in to what and how we are eating can really make a huge difference. It definitely has for me.
I always told myself that there's nothing wrong with being on my phone or laptop, or doing crosswords (my guilty pleasure!), while eating. But often, even though I was eating wholesome, balanced and decent-sized meals, I felt unsatisfied after, despite feeling physically very full. It was confusing and frustrating. I often got bloated, felt uncomfortable, and just didn't enjoy or appreciate my food.
Mindful eating definitely isn't an easy habit to develop. It's hard not to pick up your phone and have a scroll through Social Media when you'r eating alone. It's challenging to find the time to really sit down properly and take time to enjoy your meals. Sometimes, you're just hungry and don't want to chew each bite of food 25 times. But with persistence, it is so fulfilling and so worth the extra effort to get there.
My digestion has improved immensely, I feel so much more in-tune with my body, and my hunger and fullness signals. I feel like my food brings me greater pleasure, I am satisfied after meals, and I generally just feel more at peace.
So I thought I'd share with you some of the science behind mindful eating and why I think you should give it a real good go:
1. The digestive process actually begins in the mouth. Enzymes in our saliva begin to breakdown our food, stomach acid secretion is stimulated and chewing our food down to a puree helps 'pre-digest' food to make the stomach's job so much easier. This also allows our body to extract and absorb more nutrients from our food, and signal between the stomach and brain when we are full and satisfied with what we've eaten. Mindfulness while eating not only improves satiation and enjoyment of eating, but has also been shown to help with weight loss and improved mood.
2. Mindfulness while eating has shown to improve the function of our immune systems, possibly by reducing our stress response, so we aren't constantly in that 'fight or flight' mode. This is very closely connected to our gut health and digestion, so one has a direct impact upon the other.
3. Eating mindfully increases satiation. It takes 20 minutes for our brain to register that our stomach is full, therefore eating more slowly can help us recognise when we are approaching this point. Mindful practices that have shown to improve satiation include taking smaller bites, chewing food longer (down to a puree is best!) and really focusing on the different tastes and textures in our food.
4. Mindful eating really helps reduce binge eating tendencies and overeating. Binge eating is a loss of control while eating, leading to the consumption of a very large amount of food in a short period of time. It is impossible to binge eat in a mindful state, because when you are being mindful, you are fully present, aware and in control of the situation.
5. Seemingly unrelated, but also very interesting: Mindfulness has shown to improve concentration and attention control. This is due to increased gray matter in the areas of the brain that are involved in learning, memory and controlling emotions while practicing mindfulness!
Now we've covered all the science behind it, here are some TIPS on how to practice eating more mindfully. I suggest you pick one, and focus on your chosen one while eating your next meal. Once you've mastered that, choose another one to add in until you are master in the art of mindful eating!
- Focus on the nourishment and nutrition that food is providing your body, instead of the calories. Appreciate that your body is able to receive this energy and nutrients to allow you to feel your best, be healthy and do all the things you do every day!
- Sit at the table while eating, not in front of the TV, in the car, and especially not in bed
- If you can, eat with someone else. Enjoy their company, enjoy the food you are eating together, and have a meaningful conversation
- Don't eat food straight from its package. Take it out and put it on a plate instead
- Watch your posture while eating. Make sure you are sitting comfortably, but straight. Practice those good table manners!
- Put down your fork in between bites, and chew your food down to a puree before swallowing
- Really take the time to notice all of the different textures and flavours in your food, and how they work together. I like to pretend I am a judge off 'Masterchef' whilst doing this!
- Turn off the TV, put away your phone and any other distractions. If you are alone, play some gentle music or eat your meal outside in the sunshine
- Keep practicing! You will get there!
I hope this post has been helpful in inspiring you to give mindful eating a go at your next meal, and make it a regular daily habit. I promise you won't look back!