If eating were a metaphor for how you live, how would you describe your life?
- Is your kitchen messy or meticulous?
- Are your plates perfectly staged or haphazardly served?
- Do you eat when hungry or eat just because?
- Is food for fuel or distraction?
- Do you eat your emotions or allow yourself to feel them?
HOW we eat matters just as much as what we eat.
We can learn a lot from our bodies… if we stopped to listen.
Your body tells you what it likes and does not like. It also tells you what it needs. Have you ever had a headache, bloat or gas after a meal? Perhaps nausea. moodiness, or pain? There are signs that your body did not like your meal choice. Bloating, headaches, cramping and blood sugar swings are not normal. They may now be “the norm”, but they are not normal.
Often these problems are caused not only by what you eat, but HOW you eat. That is where the concept of mindful eating comes to play.
What is Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is engaging in any form of eating, while being present in mind, body and spirit. It is paying ATTENTION to what you are eating, how MUCH you are eating, HOW you are eating, and WHY you are eating. It is being AWARE of your food, and how it was grown, made, or produced. Mindful eating is also taking note of how you FEEL before, during and after eating, and connecting the dots between your cravings, symptoms, and eating habits.
We live in a society where productivity and efficiency are valued more than relaxation and intuition. For too many of us, the opportunity to sit down and have a meal has been neglected and even discouraged. We don’t seem to have the time to eat, yet we eat SO much. We eat on the go, at the desk, in the car, or just grab a quick “bar” to get us through the day.
However, how much of the food that we put into our mouths do we actually taste? And are we eating for hunger or another reason?
Have you ever noticed that when you sit and eat with friends, you digest better? Or when you eat during a stressful meeting, you get indigestion? Pausing and making time to eat is important.
In fact, to me, the most important thing you can do for your body and for your health is to bring awareness or mindfulness to the plate. When we do not eat mindfully, we don’t make the connections between what we eat and how we feel. If we can’t make the connection, we can’t correct the habit that’s causing the problem in the first place.
Here are some tips for mindful eating:
- Eat only when truly hungry: Learning to differentiate between true hunger, vs. “mouth” hunger (wanting a particular food because you like it) or emotional hunger can take some practice. Sometimes the body confuses thirst with hunger. Try drinking a glass of water first, and then wait to see if you still feel hungry.
- Check in with your stress level before eating: Even low levels of stress can affect how we perceive hunger causing us to over or under-eat. To digest properly, you have to be in rest and digest mode, not fight and flight.
- Eat slowly: With the schedules that most folks keep these days – this can be challenging. However, it is a very important to the practice. It takes 20 minutes from the first bite for blood glucose levels to quiet the hunger centers in the brain. If you’re eating too fast, that second plate of food may seem like a great idea.
- Say grace at the beginning and pause at the end of your meal: Take a minute to say thanks for the food before you. This separates what WAS from what IS. Gives you a chance to pause. Then, check in with how you’re feeling after eating. Notice all the sensations. Pay attention to what they teach you. Be grateful for what you’ve just taken in.