Mindful eating is not a new buzzword or a mystical practice, but a profound way of eating your food so that you can extract both mental and physical benefits from it in abundance.
Do you eat driving to work? At your desk while answering emails? Or you just swallow your food less than 5 minutes because you got to go?
If you answered the above questions in “yes”, then know that you are not only compromising your health, but also reducing your chances to connect with your food and savour it like it deserves to be.
Making a case for mindful eating
All in all, mindful eating represent how you should eat your meals.
It refers to the act of slowing down, avoiding distractions and staying present while eating your food. It implies that eating should be a kind of ritual than a necessity. It should help you reap the benefits of the food you are eating rather than bulking up the fat reserves you are trying to get rid of.
We can all practice mindful eating. It’s not hard at all. The more you’ll practice the easier it’ll get until it won’t be a practice but a habit for you.
Why cultivate that habit? The answer is simple: for the sake of your health. But before we can go on and talk about the benefits of mindful eating, let’s delve into the science behind them.
The science behind mindful eating
Your digestion is controlled by your Autonomic Nervous System – the nervous system puts a lot of bodily processes, for example, saliva production on autopilot.
The ANS is further divided into the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) a.k.a. “fight or flight” system and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) a.k.a. “rest and digest”.
When we are stressed, rushing, working, etc., we are constantly using the SNS. When this system is active it stops some bodily functions to increase your chances of “surviving” (Getting the task/work done). Digestion is one of the first ones it switches off, courtesy of our survival instincts.
What happens in that situation is that all of your blood is directed towards your limbs to “fight or fly”, thus, making digestion even harder.
Since your body is not ready to receive, digest and assimilate food, so not only will you find it hard to receive all the nutrients from the food but you also may end up being constipated, bloated and not feeling your best self.
The point is that digestion starts in the brain way before you actually eat. We need to give the signal, time and conditions for our body to prepare itself before eating.
The resulting benefits
When you let PNS do its work, you ultimately give your stomach some time to realize what’s happening.
You feel more satisfied
There’s a difference in being full and feeling satisfied. The former simply means that your stomach is full to its capacity, while the latter indicates that you have enough of the food even if your stomach is not full.
Your digestion improves
The digestive process begins with your brain sending signals to your digestive organs so that they are prepared well. When this happens, they become receptive and responsive, which ultimately results in proper nutrient absorption.
You start eating smaller portions automatically
Research shows that eating slowly can help you keep your meal intake in check. That’s because all of your systems are well aware of the digestion taking place and thus, they perform at their optimal conditions. In contrast, if you eat in a hurry, you’d ingest extra calories without even knowing it. Worse yet, you will get hungry after one or two hours.
Your body gets hydrated better
The balance of our body fluids depends on how hydrated we are. That, in turn, depends on your eating habits. If you eat slowly, you’ll consume more water – a finding at the University of Rhode.
For anyone trying to lose weight, that could be even better as the researchers at the UOR found out a direct link in drinking more water and eating less during the meal.
So, you see, mindful eating is not just a process, but a blessing if done in the right way. It begins with eating slowly and only that. However, to help you start it now, we recommend you go through the following tips.
3 simple tips to a more mindful way of eating:
1- Eat in a relaxed state
Sit at a table, put your phone/laptop/work stuff away. If you are waiting for your food don’t do more work, check emails/social media or any other demanding task. Relax, take a few deep breaths to slow down and switch that SNS off.
2 – Allow time for your brain to understand when and what you are about to eat
A great way to do this is by cooking your own food because you see it, smell it and think about it way before eating it. But even if you are eating out, look at the menu or food on the counter and allow you brain to get the message (that’s why it is so important that you don’t have any distractions).
3 – Eat slowly and chew your food properly
The first few mouthfuls of food are the most important to get your digestive system fully ready. Chew your food a little bit longer and taste it. This will allow your digestive system to do the final adjustments (Chewing your food is also important to allow your saliva to mix well with the food and start the digestion process).
It doesn’t mean that you have to eat like an antisocial robot. As long as you are on a relaxed/happy state, paying attention to what you’re eating and not swallowing food without chewing it or tasting it, you can chat and have fun with friends/colleagues or enjoy some TV.
Happy mindful eating to all of you!