Last week I gave you information on being mindful and how to do it every day. This is an interesting topic that expands even further; one important aspect of the lifestyle that impacts each and every one of us is mindful eating.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful describes this type of eating as:
Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.
Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes, or neutral) without judgment.
Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.
As Zen Habits writes, when eating, you need to pay attention to:
Why you feel like eating, and what emotions or needs might be triggering the eating.
What you’re eating, and whether it is healthy or not.
The look, smell, taste and feel of the food you’re eating.
How it makes you feel as you taste it, as you digest it and throughout the day.
How full you are before, during and after eating.
Your emotions during and after eating.
Where the food came from, who might have grown it, how much it might have suffered before it was killed, whether it was grown organically, how much it was processed, how much it was fried or overcooked, etc.
What about “mindless” eating?
When you mindlessly eat, you are:
Eating after you’re full, ignoring your body’s signals.
Eating for emotional reasons (e.g. you’re bored, sad, stressed, etc).
Eating at random times and places, or when alone.
Eating foods that make you feel better.
Eating while multitasking.
Considering a meal an end product.
Tips for Mindful Eating
Now that you know what mindful eating is, there are helpful ways you can incorporate it into your daily life. Here are a few tips from Mindful to practice mindful eating.
1. Let Your Brain Catch Up
Slowing down when eating is one of the first and most important steps to mindful eating. When we slow down to eat, our bodies and brain can get in sync and communicate with each other. As Mindful notes, “The body actually sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often unconsciously overeat.”
Some easy ways to slow down when eating is to actually sit down to eat, making sure you thoroughly chew your food and put down your fork, spoon and knife between bites. This will also allow you to engage in thrilling conversation with those you are dining with.
2. Recognize the Body’s Hunger Signals
This is one of those times when it may be better to listen to your body than your mind. When emotional triggers strike, you may reach for food and it may often be unhealthy food. Before you grab something to eat, pay attention to if your stomach is growling, do you feel lightheaded or have low energy? These are all strong signs that you should eat something, rather than eating as an emotional response.
3. Form Healthy Eating Environments
Do you often pick around in your cabinets or refrigerator, taking little bites of things? This is one of the biggest contributors of mindless eating and can lead to overeating, when or if you decide to put a meal together later.
One way to build a healthy eating environment is to make a nourishing plate and sit down to eat. Sitting down to eat from a proper plate allows you to slow down and listen to your body.
To prevent mindless eating, another tip is to put your food away right away. After everyone has dined, wrap up and put away leftovers so the temptation to pick at it or get seconds (or thirds) when you really don’t need it is gone.
4. Avoid Emotional Foods
If you’re having a bad day, you may want to reach for a heaping serving of macaroni and cheese, but what is that comfort food really doing for you? That mac and cheese or mashed potatoes (or whatever you turn to), may be more emotionally comforting than it is physically.
As Mindful notes, “As we practice eating healthier and a greater variety of food, we are less inclined to binge on our comfort foods, and more inclined to enjoy healthy foods, ultimately finding many foods mentally and physically satisfying as opposed to just a few.”
5. Think of the Life Cycle of Food
Do you know how your food was made, prepared and put on your plate? As we pay more attention to the food on our plate, we have an opportunity to experience gratitude on a deeper lever. Whether you or someone you know hunted the meat on your plate or grew the veggies in your salad, someone put in time and effort so you can eat. Think of them as you sit down to enjoy your meal.
Being mindful of foods can also deepen the connection to your culture and traditions passed down from generations.
6. Pay Attention to Your Plate
Do you tend to eat your lunch at your desk or have your eyes glued to the TV when eating dinner? While it may seem like you’re being productive by multitasking, you’re actually stopping yourself from being able to listen to your body (this comes up a lot).
Once again, simply sit down for a meal and pay attention to your body. Do you find that you feel full sooner than normal? Does your food taste better? Listen to what you’re experiencing and practice it at every meal.
Dangers of Ignoring Mindful Eating
While it’s helpful to go over what mindful eating is and how to be more mindful when we it, it’s also important to explain what happens when we over eat.
Here are 10 things that happen to our bodies when we over eat, as outlined by PopSugar.
1. Stomach Expansion
When you eat more than usual, your body will make room for the extra food by expanding; this is what people refer to as a “food baby” because it can make some people look as if they are pregnant. This tip comes up a lot, but one way to prevent an expanded stomach is to slow down and let your brain and body realize that you have had enough food.
2. Bloated Stomach
Bloating occurs when consuming bubbly, carbonated drinks and when swallowing air while eating. Bloating can cause discomfort and make some people feel terrible. Again, slowing down when you eat and chewing thoroughly can prevent bloating, though it is completely natural.
Go for a light walk or drink more water to help your body get the extra air out of your system.
Meat sweats anyone? When you eat more than your body can handle, your metabolism kicks up in an attempt to burn off and metabolize that extra food. This can cause you to feel hot and start to sweat as your heartrate rises. Aside from not binging, there isn’t much you can do to stop this from happening; just wait it out as your body temperature drops down to normal.
4. Restless Sleep
As PopSugar reports, “Your circadian clock, which controls your sleep cycles, causes certain hormone levels (like sleep and hunger) to rise and fall throughout the day. When you overeat, it can throw this rhythm out of balance, making it difficult for you to fall asleep.”
You may also wake up in the middle of the night after a carb binge because your body wants more food after your blood sugar has crashed.
Try not to eat a lot of food right before bed to allow ample time for digestion, and if you do binge before lights out, allow yourself to relax and prepare for sleep before actually turning in for the night.
5. Extra Bathroom Trips
When you overeat, your whole system goes into warp speed to digest the food and move it through the pipes, so to speak. Your body may speed up this process even more, leading to diarrhea and/or frequent trips to the bathroom, if you eat foods that are already irritating to the digestive system.
If you do find yourself not feeling well or in the bathroom a lot after overeating, it is important to hydrate and replace electrolytes to feel like yourself again.
6. Feeling Sick
When you overeat, your rise in blood sugar can make you feel sick to your stomach. To alleviate the nauseous feeling, get rest and eat simple foods like toast or a banana to settle your stomach.
7. Feeling Dizzy
As your heartrate and metabolism try to keep up with all the food you just took in, you can start to feel dizzy. Sit down, drink some water and slow down while you eat to avoid this from happening.
8. Blood Sugar Highs and Lows
A steady blood sugar is so important to a healthy life. Many of the symptoms of overeating are the direct result of a high or low blood sugar. If you have a blood sugar crash, it may be tempting to eat sugary food to get it back up again. Instead, eat healthy vegetables to stabilize your body.
9. Feeling Tired
After a big meal, or even a full day of eating, that next day can be rough because you may not have slept well and your blood sugar has crashed. Again, don’t reach for a pastry or have double your morning coffee. Instead drink water and eat healthy meals throughout the day.
10. Extra Hunger
This may be surprising, but you are likely going to be hungry the day after excess eating, thanks in part to your lack of sleep and hormone disruption. Eat healthy proteins, fruits and vegetables to help your body feel back to normal.
Practice Mindful Eating Everyday
Mindful eating seems so simple, but it is a big change to make. It’s worth it though! It can keep you healthy as well as connect you to your food and even family traditions.
If you’re interested in more information on eating healthy, you can read my posts on What You Need to Know About Living a Holistic Lifestyle and Superfoods: What to Eat for a Healthy Life for additional tips and advice.
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