Before we dive into all things Mindful Eating, I want to start off by saying that I’m no saint either. I think it’s easy to look up to the “experts” and believe that they are doing everything “perfectly” and therefore you should too. We are all a work in progress (but if you are looking to learn more about mindful eating, you should read this to the end to learn about a super exciting opportunity I have for you!)
There are times when I eat while scrolling through my phone or in front of the TV. What we must remember, is that this is a practice that we are meant to build on overtime. The beauty of this is that over time, you can become more aware of your habits and how you feel when you implement mindful eating strategies versus when you don’t. When I do happen to eat while scrolling on my phone or watching TV, I can take note of the fact that I still feel hungry or snacky afterwards because I wasn’t paying full attention to the meal in front of me or perhaps eating too fast. Knowing that makes it easier to make a more well-informed next time I try to pull out my phone while eating.
So, why does Mindful Eating matter?
We live in a day and age where we’re busier than ever and have a lot of demands on us. As a result, many of us often exist in a constant state of stress, or our “fight or flight” mode, which is our body’s survival mechanism to cope with oncoming dangers (except nowadays, our form of danger is a scathing email from a boss or a client!) When we’re in this busy-bee and stressful mode, our body isn’t in the right place to digest and absorb nutrients from our food properly. We’re likely not even chewing our food properly or recognizing what we’re eating because we are downing it so fast or absent-mindedly that we end up not experiencing true satiation or fullness from our food, or end up with a belly ache instead.
That’s where Mindful Eating comes in.
Mindful Eating is the practice of cultivating an open-minded awareness of how the food we choose to eat affects our body, emotions, mind and everything around us. It’s feeling the food in your stomach, experiencing pleasure (or whatever you may be feeling from eating it), tuning into how it affects your emotions, honouring the food and the journey it had to take to get to you. It’s slowing down the entire process of eating to celebrate it, not to passively engage in it, and allow ourselves to enjoy each bite from start to finish to experience true satiation and fulfillment.
Research actually shows that 30-40% of your total physical response to a meal occurs during the “cephalic phase of digestion” which is really just a fancy term for the time you spend seeing, smelling and tasting your food.
During this process, an array of digestive activities occur including the release of saliva and digestive enzymes, sending blood to digestive organs and contracting the stomach + intestinal muscles.
But when we’re scrolling through our Instagram feed (#guilty) and aren’t taking the time to look down at our food and pay attention while eating, we bypass all of this. As a result, you likely won’t metabolize your food as effectively and your body may not get all of the nutrients it needs, or the chemical messages that tell your body when it’s full. This is why a lack of mindful eating can often lead to overeating and when people overeat, we tend to experience feelings of guilt or shame. When we experience those emotions, we may feel overcome with the feeling to “undo” what we’ve just done by engaging in diets or restrictive behaviours around food. But if you understand why diets don’t work, you’ll know this just marks the beginning and never-ending vicious cycle of an all around unhealthy relationship with food.
I’m not saying this is the same for everyone and I’m not saying the act of mindful eating is going to resolve all of this, but it can certainly help to improve our relationship with food, possibly prevent some of the things I just mentioned (i.e. overeating and binging) and bring more satiation/fulfillment to the act of eating overall. Some have even found that it’s resulted in weight loss. Ultimately, it will help you to intuitively dictate your eating habits as opposed to a specific emotion (i.e. sadness, loneliness, procrastination) or a thought pattern dictate your eating habits. Doing so allows us to eat in response to actual biological hunger instead of an emotional want (or “emotional hunger“).
When we eat more mindfully, we can benefit from a number of the perks such as:
- Increased satisfaction and pleasure from food (which in turn, can prevent overeating or binging later on)
- Reduced anxious thoughts about food and your body
- Improved digestion and absorption of food (aka increased energy, decreased indigestion)
Now if you’re new to mindful eating, the act of sitting alone in silence with nothing but you and your food might feel a bit funny or awkward. But it doesn’t have to be such a dreadful situation either. Over time, I think you’ll be surprised how you actually enjoy taking that time to put your phone down (I think we can all benefit from this anyway, including me) and taking that time to just enjoy the food in front of you. Here are some ideas to get started!
Mindful Eating Tips
- Before you start eating, check in with yourself. Are you stressed? If so, could you benefit from a quick deep breathing exercise that can help shift you from that fight-or-flight parasympathetic nervous system state to a rest and digest sympathetic nervous system state. You may also want to ask yourself if you’re actually hungry by rating your hunger on a scale from 0 to 10, 10 being buffet-full and 0 being absolutely famished (aiming to be around a 3-4). You may even find you were looking to turn to food to fulfill an emotional need or want!
- Put away all distractions including your phone, books, magazines and turn off the TV and your laptop while you’re at it. Remember, it’s super important to stay present during this process and engaging with distractions while eating is only going to set us up for snacking later on (as we won’t feel as full compared to if we simply practiced mindful eating) or a belly ache from eating too fast and not chewing our food enough.
- Practice chewing 25X or until your food reaches the consistency of a paste-like texture. This might come off gross to some, but doing so will allow you to embrace everything from the texture, flavour and aroma of the food to soak up maximum pleasure from the food. It will also make things easier for you digestion-wise as, despite popular belief, digestion begins in the mouth (not the stomach!)
Want to learn more about the importance & how-to of Mindful Eating? Get your ticket for Mindful Feasting on Thursday January 25th 2018 in Toronto, Ontario where you will have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious 4-course plant-based meal catered by The Fix + Co (sneak a peek at the menu here!) while soaking up insights around the topic of mindful eating and intuitive eating from yours truly! You will be accompanied by an intimate group of uplifting and like-minded women and will also go home with a healthy living-inspired swag bag from our amazing sponsors! Get your ticket here (only 4 spots left!)