What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is about being present in the moment when eating and enjoying the meal before you. Its also about listening to your bodies cues in respect to hunger, satiety and taste. It involves:
Sitting when eating a meal
Slowing your pace when eating, taking smaller bites, chewing for longer and taking breaks between bites.
Eating away from distraction such as television, phones or the computer.
Listening to your bodies hunger and full signalling and letting these cues guide your decision making on when to begin and finish eating.
Choosing foods that are both pleasurable to eat and which nourish your body.
Eating with all of your senses; taste, smell, touch, sight and feel.
Being aware of the effect the food you eat is having on your body. Do you respond well or do you experience burping, bloating, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea?
Being aware of emotional eating patterns
Knowing and having respect for where your food comes from.
So why should we all be eating mindfully?
Studies have shown that mindful eating practices can have a dramatic effect on the health of an individual.
Have you ever sat down to eat a meal with your head stuck in a phone, computer or TV, and all of a sudden you look down to realise you have completely devoured the entire plate without realising? This is because your mind is focused on the task you were performing on the phone, computer etc and hasn't had time to tell your digestion that its time to eat. So your digestion hasn't begun to prep stomach acid, enzymes or hormones that help to digest your food.
What does this mean?
It means you don't break down your food adequately and therefore you don't absorb all of the nutrients in that meal. This in itself can have a flow on effect on all areas of health from immunity to mental health.
And because your body hasn't had time to register your eating, it also doesn't have time to produce the satiety hormone leptin, so you find yourself still feeling hungry and possibly going in for a second serve or eating more throughout the day.
A study conducted by Jordan et al in 2014 showed that mindful eating practices were associated with less impulsive eating, reduced calorie consumption and healthier snack choices, therefore encouraging healthier weight and eating habits.
What are the health benefits associated with mindful eating?
Several studies have been published on the healthiest populations in the world. These populations have been referred to as “Blue Zones” and are home to some of the worlds oldest living people. With some of the lowest counts of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer.
These zones include Ikaria in Greece, Okinawa in Japan, the Ogliastra region in Sardinia, Loma Linda in California, and the Nicola Peninsula in Costa Rica.
Among many of the attributed practices to this is that these populations sit down to consume a meal together without distraction.
There are many health benefits associated with mindful eating including:
Healthier digestion and absorption of nutrients
Increased taste and pleasure
Improves weight parameters
So next time you prepare a meal, turn the television off, sit down and really engage with your food.