What other activities are you engaged in when you are eating? Are you watching your favorite Netflix show? Reading a book? Scrolling through your Facebook feed?
When we don’t pay attention to what we eat, to the fact that we are eating, it has long-term consequences on our health.
Unlike what we are taught in school, digestion does not begin in your mouth. Instead, it starts in your brain. Think about it- not the concept of digestion but instead, your favorite food. Really imagine it- the smell, the taste, the feel in your mouth.
You may notice your mouth watering- that is the beginnings of your digestive system becoming active. Other actions occurring in your body that you won’t notice are happening in your stomach, pancreas and intestines- increasing production of enzymes that help to digest fats, starches and proteins and hormones that regulate your appetite. Up to 40% of the digestion system is activated before you even take a single bite of food!
So if you aren’t paying attention to your food, your brain may not notice that you are eating until you put food in your mouth and then the digestion starts later than what is optimal.
So what does mindful eating consist of? It can look like a different things- here are just a few.
- Notice your food before you take a bite. Taking a moment to stop and pay attention. There are practical health reasons for giving grace (it doesn’t have to be religious)– it makes you slow down and give gratitude. It is an opportunity to focus on the food, the sights, the smell, the anticipation.
- Don’t miss out on that first bite. Don’t miss this moment- this is the next important point of the meal. The first bite is going to be the memorable- each bite after this is going to be slightly less pleasurable.
- Put your fork down between bites. You can make the decrease in the pleasure a little less brutal by taking more time between each bite. Put the fork or spoon down between bites. Savor each bite, instead of getting the next bite of food ready; otherwise, you are focused on the next bite of food instead of the food in your mouth!
And while you may not be able to focus on every single bite, especially if you are eating with others (which is another great thing to do- eating in community), slowing down and taking notice of the fact you are eating will go a long way. You will enjoy your meal more, you will become fuller more quickly (and eat less as a consequence). You will absorb more nutrients.
Wanna play around with mindful eating? You can try all these tips in one meal a day, or just even one of the suggestions at each meal for the next week. See what you notice. You can also read more at Dr. Susan Albers’ website focused on mindful eating.
Let me know what you think- do you practice any of these or other mindful eating tips? Share with me in the comments below.