Your Guide To Mindful Eating
Could you benefit from practicing mindful eating? Of course! Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered!
March is nutrition month here in Canada and the theme this year is about how healthy eating is #morethanfood. When we think of the topic ‘healthy eating’ most of us focus on what we’re putting on our plates. The foods we eat are definitely an important aspect of healthy eating, however the practice of eating healthy goes well beyond that - it really begins in our minds. We’re giving you some tips on how to practice mindful eating and we’re also showing you what it could look like to be a little too mindful when it comes to the foods we consume.
Mindful Eating Tip #1: Eat More Slowly
Did you know that digestion begins well before food enters your stomach? Seeing, smelling and even thinking of food actually begins the digestion process. When food enters the mouth, saliva begins to form - which is one of the first steps in digestion. Eating more slowly and chewing your food more thoroughly gives your body enough time to properly digest what’s going inside of it. Eating more slowly can not only lead to better digestion but it can also help you learn your hunger cues. When we rush through meals we don’t give our bodies enough time to process whether or not we are satisfied and full. When you scarf something down, you’re often left hungry. When we take the time to chew each bite and eat at a slower pace we are more satisfied and less likely to overeat.
Mindful Eating Tip #2: Eat Without Distraction
So many of us are guilty of it. For some people, there’s no option but to sit down on the couch for breakfast, lunch and dinner which inevitably leads to flipping on the tv and letting our thoughts go as we shovel whatever’s in front of us into our mouths without a second thought. As we already mentioned, if we’re too busy watching what’s on TV or scrolling on our phones, we lose the ability to realize when we’re satisfied and full and more likely than not, we’re also not taking the time to chew.
Mindful Eating Tip #3: Chew Your Food
Did we already mention how important it is to simply chew your food? Chewing your food not only helps break down your food but also increases the amount of nutrients you’re getting from your food. You’ll also help to prevent digestive issues like bloating, acid reflux, cramps, gas and indigestion - just by taking the time to really chew your food!
Mindful Eating Tip #4: Stop Restricting and Ditch The Labels
Of course there are certain foods that offer no nutritional benefits whatsoever other than providing your bodies with energy (even ‘empty calories’ provide us with some sort of energy) and tasting delicious, but who’s to say they can’t still be enjoyed? When we label foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ we fall into unhealthy eating habits which can lead to some pretty severe consequences. There’s definitely such a thing as being too mindful, especially when it comes to food. If you have an allergy or intolerance, it’s definitely recommended to stay away from those foods but if your body is fully capable of digesting things like dairy and gluten, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying them from time to time. When it comes to diets that suggest cutting out entire food groups - there’s always a chance that these restrictions, under the guise of ‘clean or healthy eating’ can lead to unhealthy obsessions.
What it looks like when mindful eating becomes an unhealthy obsession:
- skipping out on a meal with friends or family because where they’re eating at doesn’t have any ‘good/healthy’ food on the menu
- depriving yourself of fuel because you ‘can’t’ have what’s in front of you (unless it’s a dietary restriction, in which case you should definitely avoid)
- Counting calories (not always the case, but often can be!)
- Restricting entire food groups without an allergy or intolerance
- Missing out on social gatherings and get togethers
- Fear of food or certain food groups
These unhealthy obsessions can lead to:
- Skipping meals
- Overeating and binge eating
- Emotional eating
- Damaging relationships
- Food related anxiety
- A decline in wellbeing and overall health
- Obsessive tendencies and habits
- Judging others for their personal choices when it comes to food
- A lack of food enjoyment
Are we saying that we should eat whatever we want regardless of the nutritional content? Absolutely not! While there are definitely some things that our bodies wouldn’t benefit from eating often and in large quantities, it’s also not the end of the world if we enjoy them from time to time. This approach is often referred to as the ‘80/20’ rule, which recommends that 80% of your diet come from nutrient dense whole foods and the other 20% coming from food that may not be as nutritionally beneficial. Essentially what this is recommending is balance. Balance when it comes to not only the food you eat but also your mindset when you’re eating them.
To sum it up, what does mindful eating look like?
- Eating more slowly
- Eating without distraction
- Chewing your food
- Ditching the labels & food restrictions
Overall, what are the benefits of mindful eating?
- You’ll be able to listen to physical hunger cues and eat only until you’re satisfied and full
- You’ll be able to distinguish between being hungry and other triggers that you may associate with what you think is being ‘hungry’
- You’ll notice what sort of emotional attachments you have to eating and whether these attachments are issues that need to be addressed
- Better digestion and overall immunity
- More time spent with family and friends
- Enjoying your food!