The benefits of becoming a more mindful eater are endless, but a few of the main reasons being: 1. You won’t eat as much 2. Your digestion will be better 3. You will have a more pleasurable experience and will shift to eating healthier foods. Think about this as an investment into your future health and healthy habits.
Step 1: Set the scene
If it is a sunny day out or not too cold, go outside, breath the fresh air, feel the sun on your face. The most important part here is to sit down. Don’t walk around while eating, don’t do it in your car, be intentional about choosing a spot to sit, where you will spend the next 10-20 minutes (at least) eating and paying attention to your food.
Step 2: Remove all distractions
Don’t have your phone with you, don’t sit in front of the tv, don’t do it while you are doing another task. I get it, you’re busy, you have a busy day, you don’t usually have time to eat, you need to multitask. But this is me telling you that you can carve out 20 minutes for a mindful meal, even if it is just once a day.
Step 3: Get into parasympathetic mode
Yes, but how? Well, it’s quite simple actually… 5-10 deep belly breaths will get you out of the sympathetic, fight or flight mode that we spend most of our days in, and get’s us into rest and digest mode (aka parasympathetic mode). When your body shifts to this state, it becomes more relaxed, your stress hormones relax, your body can digest better AND absorb more nutrients from your food. Such a small shift can have such a big difference!
Step 4: Gratitude
When you focus on things you are grateful for, happy and love hormones like oxytocin and serotonin are released. The more we have these hormones flowing through our bodies, the better, it is good for our health, and helps reduce stress levels. These hormones also help us get into that parasympathetic mode.
Step 5: Chew 50+ times each bite
This seems like a crazy task, and you might get bored the first few times, but the benefits are huge! First off, digestion starts in your mouth, in your saliva, so the more you chew and the more saliva is excreted, the more your food is already broken down before it enters your digestive tract. And for anyone who experiences digestive upset, like heartburn, burping, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation, this small step will be a HUGE game changer. You will also notice that if you are eating more processed foods, like bread or a cracker, that you will not need to chew as much – that is because the fiber has been removed from the food. The more wholesome foods, like vegetables contain more fiber which is so important to get more of in our diets.
Step 6: Notice the sensations / Get Curious
First off, notice the flavours of what is in your mouth, get curious, is it sweet, salty, sour, tart? What is the texture like? When you take the time to notice the nuances and flavours of your food, the more likely you will start taking more care to put into preparing that food. You will start to notice that a bowl of craft dinner or frozen french fries does not have the same flavour that roasted broccoli or fresh sunflower sprouts have. This little attention shift will slowly help you start choosing foods that are more real, and less processed. It might help to close your eyes, and that way, any visual distractions are cut out and you can just focus on the flavours and sensations in your mouth and body at that time.
Now, it’s not realistic to do this every meal, but the more you can incorporate it into your life, the better off you will be. Start with aiming for 1 meal a day to be more mindful, choose a time where you have the time and space for that, even plan it into your schedule for that day.
Let me know how it goes!