Mindful Eating

Diet and food can be very confusing. It is confusing for a reason. There is no specific diet for everyone. Each person reacts and responds differently to certain foods based on many factors including genetics and their specific lifestyle.

To ease the process of choosing the right food for your body and lifestyle, we can learn to listen to the body and choose what it needs by taking an intuitive, mindful approach to food. Through increased awareness we can listen to the body, respond to the cues and sensations, and use this information to determine which foods to choose based on what the body needs in that moment.

The first stage of digestion is called the cephalic phase. It is the least known process and potentially plays the most important role in proper food digestion, and optimal absorption of nutrients in the food.

The cephalic phase of digestion is responsible for the secretion of about 20-40% of the body fluids required for digestion. This is activated prior to eating by looking at the food, the smell of it, the sound, the touch, and even the thought of it. This process is best understood on a personal level by the increased salivation in the mouth as we become aware of our meal, it helps moisten and soften the food before it travels down the digestive tract and is a vital process to ensure long term health.

When we ae distracted or in a hurry, this important, initial phase of digestion does not get a chance to become activated, we unconsciously skip the cephalic phase by paying no or very little attention to our meal. The cephalic phase is vitally important in both the absorption of nutrients, and ensuring the proper digestion of the food.

When we are under stress our ability to digest food shuts down and stops absorbing nutrients. That means that even a meal rich in nutrients will not be properly absorbed if its not eaten mindfully. Signals in the body fail to respond and it may lead you to stomach cramps, bloating, or feeling hungry even after the meal.

Multi-tasking while eating a meal is sometimes unavoidable, however, over time this way of eating may contribute to health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, or indigestion.

Another aspect is our perception of the food we consume. If we like the food, enjoy the taste, and look forward to the meal, this simple mindset can also aid in nutrient absorption. If we dislike the food, or are forced to eat it, our body becomes under stress, preventing nutrient absorption. Enjoying the food that you eat is an important part of eating mindfully.

Simply by using mindfulness techniques, we can ensure that our meal gets properly digested, and all the nutrients absorbed to maximize food consumption. Some helpful tips for mindful eating are:-

  • Prepare the food yourself, eg cooking. By cooking our own meals, we can generate a better relationship with food, experiment with ingredients, and know for sure exactly what was used in the cooking process
  • Turn off electronic devices or put your phone on flight mode to avoid distractions
  • Take a moment to observe your meal, be thankful for the long process of it getting to your plate, look at the ingredients and visual how they ended up on the plate. Be thankful in that moment for the animal or plant that gave its life to sustain your body.
  • Eat slowly, cut your food into small pieces and chew it thoroughly. Feel the texture of the meal and taste it, swallow in small pieces and rest between bites
  • Taste it, smell it, hear it, feel it
  • Observe how your body responds, notice the changes and reactions in the body to the food. Is it life enhancing or life depleting?
  • Create an ambient mood, Light some candles, play soft music, allow your body and mind to rest into a state of coherence

Through conscious observation of the different sensations in the body we can determine which foods are optimal for our body. Intuitive eating takes time to develop so A food journal is helpful to aid with this process. Documenting the reactions to certain foods by keeping a journal and writing down what’s happening in the body before and after a meal will help to better understand what the body needs. Overtime we can use the intuition that has now been developed to make healthy and happy choices

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