Here are 8 Fantastic Mindful Eating Tips:
- Tune into your body and focus on your hunger
- Remove distractions, like your phone or TV
- Notice the colours on your plate – it’s so satisfying to see a healthy rainbow of goodness waiting to be enjoyed
- Inhale the pleasant scent and pay attention to how it makes you feel
- Take a bite and focus on the texture, flavours, temperature and/or even the sound and savour it
- Take your time – chew slowly and enjoy every moment
- Focus on how you feel – hungry, satisfied, relaxed…
- Practice gratitude – be thankful that you have this meal, the equipment to cook it, access to the ingredients, etc.
Health Benefits of Mindful Eating
1. Stop Overeating in it’s Tracks
Did you know that it can take up to 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full? Bonkers, I know! But this can be a real problem if you’re distracted and eating in a hurry.
When you’re trying to get a meal in super quick, shoveling each bite down, you may fill up the tank way too fast. Which means that by the time your brain knows that you’re full you may be a lot fuller than you want to be.
And being too full can mean discomfort, bloating (hello food baby), irregular bowl movements and all the un-fun things that come along with digestive upset. Seriously not fun!
2. Get More Nutrients from your Meal
This may sound a little silly, since I just said that you eat less when you practice mindful eating, but hear me out. According to the brilliant minds at Harvard University, it’s very possible that when you’re eating in a hurry (say working at your desk or while driving) you may actually be in a state similar to fight or flight.
The interesting thing about fight or flight is that it slows down or even stops the digestive process. This is because having energy to run away or fight the bad guy is a lot more important than digestion in a fight or flight situation.
And remember, whether you’re worried about reaching a deadline or afraid of a bear in the woods, the fight or flight reaction is pretty much the same.
So, when we eat in a state of hurry or stress we’re eating with a slowed or halted digestive system. And that means we aren’t going to digest things well. We might not even get all of the nutritional goodness our food has to offer. Which is a bummer! In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.
3. Differentiate Between Emotional Eating and Physical Hunger
According to psychologist Dr. Jean Kristeller, Professor Emeritus at Indiana State University and founding member and President of The Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating helps us recognize the difference between emotional and physical hunger and recognize when we’re full.
Which is fantastic! Because stress can definitely have us reaching for unhealthy comfort foods. While studies do show that comfort foods actually do temporarily lower stress, they also show us that doing this on the regular has a negative impact on our health.
While it’s ok to reach for something comforting on occasion, when we use this as a regular coping mechanism we often accumulate more dangerous visceral fat. Visceral fat has been linked to health issues like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic issues and breast cancer.
All the more reason to get your mindful eating on! Studies even show that this awesome form of self care reduces the urge to binge eat and makes meals more enjoyable. Woohoo!
4. Reduces Stress and Improve Your Mood
The good news is, even if we’re giving up on emotional eating (thus easing out of an easy way to reduce stress), practicing these mindful eating tips actually helps to lower your stress levels too!
It works the same way that mindfulness meditation works to nip stress in the bud. Remember how I said that I like to think of mindful eating as a form of meditation? While, that’s actually kind of true (and so cool!)
Mindful eating, much like meditation, helps to reduce the psychological and physiological symptoms of stress, including depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular health.
Mindfulness also helps to activate the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, a part of the brain that controls thinking and emotion, and the Ventromedial Prefontal Cortex, which controls worrying. These two babies working together help to reduce anxiety, leaving you feeling more relaxed.
Super bonus! When we treat ourselves to a meditative meal we may also lower cortisol levels, a hormone that’s associate with mental and physical stress. Which means an even more relaxed you. That’s a whole lot of de-stressing from one simple self care activity!