Mindful Eating – Better Health – Part II

In my last newsletter/blog, I wrote about Mindful Eating — what it is, why it’s important, and some simple ways to get started with it.  To see that piece, or to review it,  Click here.

It’s possible that you read some or most of that piece and immediately thought, ”OMG, I am too rushed, and too busy, and too overloaded to begin to think about taking more time to eat my food!”

I, as well as many others, hear that cry. I suffer from the same syndrome. Still, I tend to persist with ideas that can improve my health and the quality of my life, and vowed to look a little more closely here at the art of Mindful Eating.  Stick with me for a bit.

The good news is that being more attentive and aware in all aspects of your life can help you to improve your eating habits, which, in turn, have a positive effect on health and well-being. If slowing down your eating sounds too hard and impractical right now, begin by being more mentally present with your significant other, put away your cell phone,  and be more engaged with what you are doing. Do just one thing at a time (what a concept!) instead of multi-tasking.  Then, when you are ready to change your meal habits, you will have more practice on how to be attentive and present. It’s just too easy to eat an entire plate of food and not taste one bite.

There are Four Major Points with mindfulness. Check in with each dimension as you eat.

  • Mind – Am I tasting each bite or am I zoned out when I eat?
  • Body—How does my body feel before and after I eat? Low energy? Stomach rumbling? Full?  Empty?
  • Feeling — What do I feel eating this food? Guilt?  Pleasure? Joy? Disappointment?  Regret?
  • Thoughts – What thoughts does this food bring to mind? Memories? Beliefs? Myths? Fears?

A big part of the eating experience, after we settle ourselves, take some deep breaths, and offer some thanksgiving for the privilege of having food to eat, is the simple act of chewing.

Chewing leads to smooth digestion and greater assimilation of nutrients by initiating the release of digestive enzymes that break down food. Chewing turns grains and other complex carbohydrates into satisfying sugars and makes oils, proteins, and minerals available for maximum absorption.

Wholefoods, especially whole grains, must be mixed with saliva and chewed until they become liquid to release their full nutritional value. Additionally, the more that whole carbohydrate foods are chewed, the sweeter they become.

Proper Chewing

A good way to build a good chewing habit is to count the chews in each bite, aiming for 30-50 times. This is easier to do if you put your fork down and just chew, without anticipating the next bite.

  • Thorough chewing breaks down food and makes it easier on the stomach and small intestine to digest.
  • Saliva assists in the digestion of carbohydrates. More chewing produces more saliva
  • Saliva also makes the food more alkaline, which creates less gas.

If you feel the pressure to race through a meal, which is a fairly standard procedure for a high percentage of Americans, take some deep breaths, chew, and let the simple act of chewing relax you. Taking time to chew will help you to enjoy the whole spectrum of

Specific Suggestions

Before eating

  • Wash hands and face
  • Turn off the tv, radio, phones, and other electronic devices
  • Do not read
  • Find a clean, quiet place to eat.
  • Light a candle or play soft music, or both
  • Stretch, breathe
  • Offer some gratitude
  • Align your posture and your breath

During your meal

  • Place a bite of food in your mouth.
  • Put your utensil down.
  • Fold your hands while chewing
  • Concentrate on chewing. Count
  • Look at the food on your plate, or some other attractive thing, or close your eyes partially or fully

After eating

  • Say thank you
  • Sit and talk after your meal
  • Take a light stroll, a great aid to good digestion.

Fully Aware

“Either you’re physically hungry or there’s another trigger for eating,” says Megrette Fletcher, MED, RD, CDE, co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating. “Mindful awareness of food and the eating process is a necessary component that facilitates behavior change.  Many of the habits that drive overeating are unconscious behaviors that people have repeated for years. They act them out without even realizing it.”

The core principles of mindful eating —

  • be aware of the nourishment available through the process of food preparation and consumption
  • choose enjoyable and nutritious foods
  • acknowledge food preferences nonjudgmentally
  • recognize and honor physical hunger and satiety cues
  • use wisdom to guide eating decisions.

Bon appetit, always!


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