Mindful eating is one of the foundational teachings of Buddhist philosophy and is known to be a type of meditation where you eat slowly to expand awareness to the ritual of eating. For many of us, busy lives mean eating behind the wheel, at our desk at work, or in front of the TV – just about anywhere except the kitchen table. The act of eating then becomes a mindless task rather than an enjoyable, nourishing experience as it should be.
Slowing down to enjoy your meal allows you to become attuned to what your body needs and to realize when you’ve had enough. One of the greatest benefits of mindful eating is that you don’t have to “diet.” When you eat mindfully, you learn to trust your body.
Here are 8 ways on how you can incorporate mindful eating into your mealtime routine.
Before you eat, take a few deep breaths to relax and ground yourself. This shifts your nervous system in a resting state, where your body can digest and receive the maximum nutrition from your meal.
Sit Down + Unplug
Rushing through meals or eating mindlessly can often create gas, bloating, cramping and other digestive upsets. For this reason, it is essential to take a moment and give your body a break. Put down the phone, get off the computer, and turn off the TV. Give yourself this time to allow food to replenish and nourish you.
Did you know it takes the brain approximately 20 minutes to register feelings of fullness? Pausing in between bites to check in with your body can facilitate a healthy habit of slow eating. By slowing down, you can tune in to when you are feeling full and avoid overeating and stressing your digestive system. The goal is to feel good and satisfied, not overly stuffed.
Chew Chew Chew
In the process of chewing, our saliva secretes enzymes that help break down food before it continues down into the rest of the digestive tract. The longer food is exposed to saliva (through chewing), the easier it moves through your intestines, and the less gas it creates. Try chewing each bite 30-50 times before you swallow. This will kick start the digestive process and allow proper absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, which is essential for optimal health.
Engage Your Senses
Mindful eating can be a wonderful sensory experience. Take time to appreciate all flavours, textures and aromas. Savour each bite and fully connect to your food and the people you’re with. Tap into your senses and take in your surroundings, experience what it feels like to be fully present during your meal.
Keep Your Liquids + Meals Separate
It’s best to drink liquids 15 minutes before you eat and 30 minutes after you eat. Drinking during meals dilutes digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, thus slowing down the digestive process. By drinking apart from meals, you can easily avoid excess gas and bloating.
Identify Your Hunger
Are you thirsty? Is your stomach growling? How hungry do you feel today?
It is easy to fall into a pattern of mindless or emotional eating when you’re not in tuned or connected to your body. Check in with yourself regularly, and ask yourself what your body truly needs in that moment.
Take a moment to recite a blessing of gratitude for the food, the earth and everyone involved in growing, preparing, and bringing the food onto your plate. Expressing gratitude at mealtime reminds us to reconnect to the earths roots and to give thanks for its ability to sustain us with nourishing, energizing food.
Be sure to notice how you digest your meals and whether this practice has any positive effects on your body, your mind, or life in general. Remember, it is not just what you eat, but how you eat that matters.