Mindful Eating: 7 Ways To Be More Conscious With Food & Nutrition
In today's busy world, speed and convenience have become priorities when it comes to just about everything - including what we eat.
Eating to simply "fill yourself up" without consciously giving thought to 'what' you put into your mouth, paves the way for poor dietary choices which in turn won't serve you or your health in the long run.
Snacking on the run or eating lunch at your desk may seem efficient and like multi-tasking, but it may also not be as “harmless” as it seems.
Brilliant ancient cultures considered the act of eating, "sacred".
They believed that the body is a temple and that anything you put in the mouth is an "offering" to the temple that should be treated mindfully.
And this means being conscious of what, when, where, why and how you eat...which can benefit you in more ways than you could possibly imagine!
This empowered way of consuming food has become known as “mindful eating”.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is based on an ancient Buddhist philosophy and type of meditation where you devote your full attention to the present moment and its experiences at hand.
Mindful eating takes this same principle and applies it to getting control over your habits relating to food, including the act of eating itself.
It also allows you to become more conscious of your cravings as well as the physical and emotional effects food has on your body and state of mind.
By paying deliberate attention to what’s happening both inside and outside of yourself your awareness gets heightened so that you can actually cherish the joy and satisfaction of eating on all levels.
In effect, it’s like making the act of eating a form of meditation. Eating consciously involves being grateful for and savouring your food, appreciating where it’s from and acknowledging everything it does for you and your body.
Mindless Eating Versus Mindful Eating
The term “absent-minded” does a great job of summing up what mindless eating is all about.
As opposed to “mind-full”, eating without much thought and not exclusively focusing on your food and being conscious of the way that you eat often manifests in the following ways:
- Continuing to eat, even when full
- Emotional eating
- Eating by yourself, whenever and wherever
- Eating while doing something else at the same time
- Treating food and meals as just a way to fill yourself up.
Unfortunately for too many people, the mere fact that we’ve been eating all of our lives has made eating get relegated to the same status as a chore, something that just has to be done and not necessarily enjoyed or given the attention it deserves.
Benefits Of Mindful Eating
Apart from the obvious benefits of better nutrition and increased levels of enjoyment, many people have also reported how it has helped them with:
- Energy levels
- Blood sugar balance
- Cortisol & stress levels
- High blood pressure
- Losing weight
- Overcoming eating disorders
Additionally, mindful eating can help you to get more energy and “life force” from your food which boosts immunity, promotes cell growth and rejuvenation, improves brain function, increases muscle growth and helps with detoxification.
Eating certain types of foods can actually also play a large role in elevating your mood and improving your emotional state!
Learn more in Feeding Your Emotions With Whole Foods
Here are 7 ways you can eat more mindfully and become more conscious at meal time. Just by taking a few extra minutes and making the effort to do one or more of these regularly of these regularly can have a big impact on your relationship to food and the effects it has on your body and health…
1. Embrace Your Senses
The more that you involve your senses whilst choosing, preparing and eating food, the more emotionally grounded and centred you’ll be.
Before even taking a bite or sip, have a good look at the food in front of you, contemplate the shapes, colours and presentation.
Eat with your hands so that you can touch, feel and have a connection to it, even before it reaches your mouth.
Sniff and smell it, breathe in the aroma and in the process let your body start to prepare for what’s coming.
With the first bite, feel its texture on your lips and in your mouth and let your tongue explore its shape.
2. Chew Slowly
After you’ve relished your food with your senses, take the time to slowly chew your food, while breathing deeply down into your lungs and diaphragm.
You want to get your food to the point where it’s well “mushed” and easily swallowed.
In addition, the more you use your teeth to physically break food down by chewing, the less your digestive system will have to do this important task and the quicker and easier to will be for it to digest.
Taking your time with chewing is also a way of preventing yourself from overeating as you’ll be more in-tune with the signals from your body and know when you’ve had enough.
3. Eat Only Until Full
When not conscious of your body’s signals that it sends you in regards to hunger, it becomes easy to overeat especially when eating quickly on the fly or after an extended period of busyness or diets when skipping meals or denying your body food becomes a regular occurrence.
Unfortunately, this type of behaviour can lead to gorging and overeating as a result of feeling “starved”.
Having smaller, measured-out portion sizes can assist in controlling the amount that you eat and make it easy for you to get a sense of when your stomach is actually full and how certain foods affect your mood and levels of energy.
If you do get hungry in between meals, having healthy snacks on hand like nuts or fruit will not only prevent you from overeating but also help balance out your blood sugar levels.
4. Schedule Your Meals
Setting aside sufficient time at set times of the day to focus on the act of eating will help you to get a sense of ritual and sacredness around your meals.
Despite popular belief breakfast doesn’t have to be “the most important meal of the day”. In fact, the longer you leave having your first meal after waking up, the more your body can continue with cellular recycling and cleansing itself.
Learn more in Intermittent Fasting - Health Benefits And How To’s
Instead, you can start your day with a big glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a pinch of nature-made salt, this will help to kickstart your digestive system and flush out any impurities.
Scheduling your biggest meal of the day in the late morning or early afternoon is preferable over a large dinner later in the day before going to sleep which can lead to food remaining undigested in your gut overnight and affect the quality of your sleep.
Eating according to a schedule more aligned to both your body’s rhythms and the earth’s rotation around the sun will help you to get into a more natural and healthy harmony.
5. Get Your Environment Right
In addition to finding a more appropriate eating schedule, it’s also important to take into account where you eat and with whom.
Developing mindful and healthy eating environments involves sitting down, eating from a plate or bowl and if possible in the company of others in a quiet place conducive to relaxation and meaningful conversation.
So many people eat their food unconsciously either “on the go” while rushing from one place to another or even when sitting in front of a computer or TV while continuing to eat.
Make an effort to go to a specific “sacred” tranquil space to eat like a dining room or even out in nature. If you do this with others who are also intentional about being more mindful, mealtimes can become like a “ritual” serving as a sanctuary, time out and reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
6. Consider Nutritional Value & Source
Food is either living or dead and by the same token will either promote life (health) or death (dis-ease).
Living foods take the form of fresh plant whole foods which provide natural nutrition that your body inherently recognises and assimilates.
Learn more in What Are Whole Foods? 7 Benefits Of A Whole Food Diet
Dead, lifeless foods, on the other hand, include meat as well as anything processed, packaged, or tainted by additives and preservatives.
Learn more in Cancer-Causing Chemicals In Supermarket Foods
Unfortunately, most commercial fruits, vegetables and nuts have been grown using toxic and health-threatening herbicides and pesticides so it’s important to always give preference to organic produce.
Learn more in Organic Versus Non-Organic
If you do eat meat, give some consideration to whether the animals were raised humanely and organically. More often than not factory farming involves many cruel practices as well as the “livestock” being administered large amounts of antibiotics and growth hormones which you’ll also ingest.
Eating the same foods day in and day out can not only become boring but also limit the range of nutrients and benefits that you’ll get.
Filling your diet with a range of nutrient-dense whole foods consisting of different colours and characteristics and trying certain combinations can make mealtimes more fun and tasty.
The old adage is definitely true in this regard, “variety really is the spice of life”
Learn more in 5 Tips For Better Digestion & Less BloatTolman Self Care.