Are you someone who sits down and takes the time to eat your meals, pausing to breathe between each bite? Or do you eat on the run and eat as quickly as possible? It can be difficult to find the time to eat mindfully when we are stressed about time or have busy schedules, but today we will discuss what mindful eating entails along with some of the benefits it has on your wellbeing.
What Exactly Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is the practice of eating in a mindful way opposed to an unconscious way, which includes shifting one’s awareness to the mind-body connection and paying attention to the sensations you experience when you are eating. The main things to focus on when eating mindfully include:
- Sitting down to eat your meals
- Eat slowly and chew thoroughly
- Take small pauses periodically in-between bites
- Eliminate distractions (no phone time or TV)
- Focus on how the food makes you feel as well as what it tastes and smells like
- Tune into the reason that you’re eating, are you truly hungry and nourishing your body or are you trying to drown out an uncomfortable emotion such as stress or depression?
- Have awareness of your hunger level throughout the meal and stop eating when you’re full
Mindful Eating Benefits Digestion
The Central Nervous System (CNS) regulates our digestive functions. When we rush to eat our food or feel stressed out when eating, our nervous system is in the sympathetic state, which has a negative effect on our digestion. Our digestive system works optimally when our nervous system is in the parasympathetic state, which is associated with the state of relaxation. This is because parasympathetic stimuli is what stimulates our normal digestive activities, such as secreting digestive juices and activating our metabolism. “When CNS innervation is lost, dysregulated motility causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.” So mindful eating can have a tremendous impact on the way that our bodies digest food and assimilate nutrients.
Mindfulness Benefits Issues Around Emotional Eating
The Nutrition Research Reviews journal has found that mindful eating interventions were most effective at addressing binge eating, emotional eating, and eating in response to external cues. When we slow down to focus on the food we are eating, we realize that food is meant to nourish our bodies, it’s not meant to be an escape from reality. Oftentimes, when people begin to realize this from practicing mindful eating, they make healthier choices around their food intake and notice positive changes around emotional eating. When we connect to our bodies and focus on each bite of food, the smell, the taste, and even the way it feels in our mouths, we create a healthier relationship with food.
Mindful Eating Benefits Weight Loss
Mindful eating is also beneficial for weight loss for many reasons. Binge eating often leads to weight gain for many people, and as we mentioned above, mindful eating can decrease the frequency of binge eating in many individuals. Mindful eating also helps regulate our stress response and stress hormones, specifically cortisol. When our cortisol levels are chronically high from stressors in our lives, it can lead to food cravings and increased weight gain. When we are mindful about what we are eating, and the reasons that drive us to eat, we wind up eating to nourish our bodies instead of eating strictly for pleasure or to avoid emotions that are hard to face. All of these things can have a positive effect on our weight loss goals.