Too many of us, especially in the U.S., are eating when we are stressed out, distracted, emotional, bored, or on the go. When we eat mindlessly, we disconnect ourselves from the food we eat and from the needs of our bodies. We overeat, we choose less healthy options, and we damage our relationship with food. Eating when we are not fully focused on our food can potentially cause a slew of health issues that impact our stress, sleep, mood, satisfaction, and overall health. Read below on mindful eating and how it can help you.
Mindful Eating 101
You might be asking, “What is mindful eating and why do I need to do it?” Mindful eating can be considered a type of mindfulness exercise or practice. A mindfulness practice is a form of meditation to help you increase awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in the present moment. For those of you who might not be keen on or confused by the idea of meditating and eating, you can just think of mindful eating as being fully present and focused on what and how you are eating. Basically, mindful eating is making a conscious decision to sit down, slow down, and immerse yourself in the experience of eating your food. When you practice mindful eating you are aware of the food you are eating, the emotions you are feeling, and the environment around you. Mindful eating is taking the time to look at, smell, chew, and appreciate your food. It is noticing the colors, textures, and taste of your food so that you can properly enjoy, digest, and assimilate your food.
How Mindless & Mindful Eating Impact Your Health
When you eat mindlessly, you can decrease the effectiveness of the digestive process because you are eating when you are distracted, stressed out, emotional, or in a rush. Your body is not in an optimal state during these times. When you eat mindlessly you can:
Disconnect from your natural hunger and fullness cues
Add extra calories to your meal
Decrease satiation and satisfaction
Disrupt your blood sugar
Throw off your sleep
Impact your mood/energy levels
Cause unnecessary immune responses and other digestive issues like bloating, gas, or nausea.
Mindful eating can be very important to your health, especially if you have developed eating patterns or habits that are not serving you. Mindful eating is NOT eating while you are watching tv, scrolling through your phone, typing on your computer, driving your car, or mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth standing up or on the go. Contrary to popular belief, digestion actually starts in the brain, not the mouth or the stomach. When we take time to actually look at, notice, and smell our food, our brain sends signals to the rest of our body telling the mouth it’s time to salivate and other organs to get ready. When you practice mindful eating the brain has time to tell a number of other organs involved in the digestion process to kick into gear; these organs work together to secrete necessary enzymes, carry through specific reactions, and break down food for proper digestion, utilization of nutrients, and excretion.
To put your body into the best state for digestion you want to be in the parasympathetic state of the nervous system (rest and digest mode) and practice mindful eating.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
Once you begin to eat mindfully on a regular basis, you will start to notice associated benefits. Mindful eating:
Helps you choose and eat foods that are more nutritionally balanced
Sets up your body for proper digestion & assimilation of nutrients
Increases satiation & enjoyment of food
Allows you to honor your hunger & fullness cues
Promotes weight loss
Builds an appreciation for where your food comes from & how its made its way to your plate
Reduces overeating and emotional eating
Breathwork and certain eating techniques can help you practice mindful eating if you are just getting started. There are even mindful eating meditations and other mindful eating resources online to help. If mindful eating feels challenging at first, know that this is normal as we have become used to eating in a certain way. However, you have the ability to break bad eating habits, implement better ones, and feel better!
If you want to learn more about mindfulness you can also book a Meditation & Breathwork Session. If you’d like to learn more about mindful eating or how to implement it into your daily routine you can also book a Nutritional Therapy Session with Michelle Eggink, NTP.
Written By Michelle Eggink, NTP
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
Meditation & Mindfulness Teacher
Ceremonial Breathwork Facilitator