A Guide to Mindful Eating
So often we eat mindlessly. We passively put food into our mouths while working on the computer, watching TV, when we’re on the run or perhaps when we are feeling stressed. Mindless eating puts us out of touch with our bodies, leaves us feeling unsatisfied and can easily lead to overeating and subsequent weight gain. On a deeper physiological level, it can actually create stress on our digestive system and impair utilization of the nutrients we are consuming. This is especially true when we are eating on the run in a stressed condition. During times of stress, our blood is flowing away from our digestive system and into the muscles so that we can fight or flee. This creates a non-optimum environment for the digestion and assimilation of nutrients into our cells, which can sabotage our beauty. Nourished cells mean beautiful skin, vibrancy and abundant energy.
The pleasure of eating lies in slowing down and fully experiencing all of the elements of food. Before you eat, have a seat and take a few deep breaths: this will help to engage the proper system for resting and digesting. By eating slower and being fully conscious of each bite, you just might find you are satisfied with a smaller portion and feel more nourished from what you have eaten.
As an exercise, take some time to explore each of the following sensations using a vegetable or piece of fruit, such as a strawberry:
Sight: Look at this strawberry and imagine you’ve never seen it before. Look at it carefully. What are its colors? Can you see its texture? Notice its details.
Smell: Bring the strawberry up to your nose. Without naming the scent, experience smelling it. Can you decipher its different notes?
Physiological reaction: Now focus on what is happening in your mouth, before you’ve even taken your first bite. You may notice your saliva production has increased. This is the very first stage of digestion, called the cephalic phase (cephalic means of or relating your head), occurring merely from the sign and smell of this strawberry. Inside your body, your stomach is starting to produce digestive juices in preparation. Amazingly, you can prompt this phase simply by thinking about food.
Touch: Now explore how the strawberry feels between your fingers. Notice its temperature, texture and weight. Take your first bite. Can you experience that texture with your tongue?
Taste: Begin to chew very slowly. How does it taste? Do parts of the strawberry taste slightly different to each other? Notice the variety of flavors within this one bite.
Swallow: Chew this bite until it becomes liquid. Are you feeling the impulse to swallow? Do you notice that your tongue naturally begins moving things toward your throat?
Now swallow, mentally tracing this bite down into your stomach. Can you feel it moving down your esophagus? Do you notice your body responding in any way? Possibly feeling more energetic? Less?
This simple exercise can be quite powerful and I strongly encourage you try it. Those who have tried it have expressed feeling more in control of eating habits, more connected to their food and calmer about eating in general as a result.
So this coming month, avoid unnecessary weight gain while enjoying your food more by making a habit of mindful eating.