Mindful Eating Habits - You Are What You Digest
Updated: Feb 13, 2020
Quality of the food we eat has been in the spotlight for a long time. Reading ingredients, choosing cleaner products, avoiding certain toxins, pesticides, additives and more – there is so much information out there to help us make better decisions. At the same time, the actual process of eating and digestion rarely gets the attention it truly deserves. The old saying “you are what you eat” should really be “you are what you DIGEST”. Did you know that your thoughts and emotions directly affect the process of digestion? Stress triggers the “fight or flight” response, which can result in such unpleasant digestive issues as nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation. Chronic, persistent stress can prevent the body from properly absorbing nutrients, as well as negatively affect gut flora and contribute to chronic digestive conditions, such as IBS, GERD, stomach ulcers and more.
It's not just feeling upset and stressed out during a meal that poses a problem, it's the constant "on the go" mode, eating in a hurry while doing other things, working, watching or reading the news (so much negativity!). It's the perception of stress that triggers the sympathetic nervous system to act. The response is the same whether you're running away from an attacker or reading an email from your boss about an upcoming performance review during your lunch break. This is why it is so important to be aware of not just WHAT you eat, but HOW you eat it. No wonder so many people deal with various digestive issues on a regular basis. We need to break this habit of distracted and stressful eating!
This is where mindful eating comes into play. Mindful eating is the practice of being present and focused during a meal, devoting your full attention to enjoying your food and meal experience. It helps you to slow down and relax, which in turn promotes better digestion and absorption of food. When you truly enjoy your meal, it benefits both your body and soul.
Below are some action steps you can take to develop mindful eating habits. You don’t have to incorporate them all, just use them as a guide and focus on what’s realistic for you.
Make time and space for a peaceful meal. It can be just 15-20 minutes of dedicated space to enjoy your food.
Pay attention to the environment around you. Is it quiet and relaxing? Or loud, noisy and hectic? That makes a difference, too.
Do not eat by your computer at work - go out to a park, or sit by a window and enjoy the view outside. Create the environment that will be pleasant for you.
Before you eat - relax, take some deep breaths, say a prayer, or just express gratitude for your meal in your mind.
Take a moment to appreciate your body's complexity and send it some love for being able to process that meal and use nutrients as building blocks for you to function optimally.
Eat slowly and chew your food well. The more you chew your food, the better it is for your digestion.
Appreciate the taste and texture, inhale the aroma, be fully present and focus on enjoying this experience.
When you take your time eating your meal - there is less risk of overeating, which also puts additional stress on your digestive system and body as a whole.
Get your family members involved with cooking, have some fun experimenting and exploring new recipes together.
Make family meals a regular practice in your home. No distractions, phones or TV allowed. Enjoy sharing delicious food with your loved ones.
Let go of perfection & just do your best to be more mindful about eating. We all have a little (or a lot!) of craziness in our lives, sometimes even the smallest steps in the right direction can make a big impact.
So what do you think? Which of these steps will you incorporate in your life? Let me know how it goes and whether you see a difference in your health and digestion.