We live in a world where we are constantly connected and available, our society is busy, busy, busy. Do you find that nearly every time you ask someone how they are, their response is “sooo busy”? As if it is something to boast about. In today’s society of staying connected and keeping busy we get caught up in a whirl wind of what we call life and we forget how to eat properly.
Mindful eating is something that is rarely practiced in our culture. It is a Buddhist practice of being aware, moment-to-moment. It’s sitting with yourself, instead of reaching for an external stimulus. If it isn’t the TV used to steal our attention it will be our phones or a magazine, it is commonplace to mindlessly consume food in our cars or at our desks or even whilst walking the streets. Sometimes there may not be a physical distraction as such, the disturbance may be our busy mind and before we know it we have devoured a plateful of deliciousness leaving us feeling unsatisfied and wanting more. The worst part of this is that we don’t really get to experience all the flavours and textures involved. Not only that, but our body wasn’t prepared to demolish a plateful of food without stopping to take a breath.
Physiologically our bodies are not designed to consume food in this mindless way. If we are rushing to finish the meal or if we are stressed our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is dominating. Firstly, the production of saliva is reduced which is the very first step in our digestive process. As a result our food is not broken down efficiently resulting in poor absorption of nutrients. Secondly, there is constriction of the blood vessels as well as inhibition of stomach and upper-intestinal action to the point where digestion slows down or stops. This halting of digestive organs can lead to constipation. Today we have constant low grade stress resulting in dominance of the sympathetic nervous system causing havoc to our digestive system.
When we eat mindfully we make better choices, we choose food that will nourish us allowing our bodies to thrive. Sometimes we eat sugar laden treats, and when this happens it should be enjoyed and every bite made mindfully without the slightest feeling of guilt.
Consuming food mindfully allows you to connect with your body tuning in to what it really needs and wants, as well as recognizing when you have had enough. It also means you get to enjoy all the flavours and textures in absolutely everything you consume.
Mindful eating tips:
• Remove all distractions such as phone, TV, books etc.
• When sitting down at the table take a couple of deep belly breaths as this turns on your parasympathetic nervous system.
• Look and smell your food, notice the colours, textures and scent.
• Place your cutlery on the table in between bites.
• Chew your food. Ensure it has been broken down in your mouth and you are not swallowing whole pieces. This is the moment where you really get to enjoy the flavours.
Alicia McVilly (Nutritionist) B.H.Sc (NutMed)