When it comes to improving your diet do you think about how you are eating as much as what you are eating? If not, it may be time to consider this. We know that when we eat the body goes through a series of complex biological reactions. Newer science has shown that these reactions actually begin long before food enters the mouth. In fact, the mere thought of eating a certain foods can trigger the salivary glands and even prompt insulin production. On the flip side, not paying attention when we are eating can cause our bodies to miss certain cues. Distracted eating can cause digestive upset and an inability to realize when we are full.
If this has you thinking you need to eat every meal and snack while breathing deeply on a secluded mountain top take heart. Mindful eating is a practice, like meditation. And just as with meditation the goal is to bring the awareness we find in practice to every day life. The more you practice paying attention the more you will naturally start increase your awareness in the midst of daily distractions. By practicing mindful eating for just a few minutes a day you can gradually transition from autopilot to engaged eater. So, how do you practice? Start with these simple ideas:
-Choose one eating experience a day to practice: It may not be realistic to eat every single meal in complete and total peace. Think of your day and choose a time when eating in awareness is the most feasible. Do you like to rise and make your own breakfast before the rest of the family gets up or are mornings a race to the finish line? Is it possible to sneak off to a quiet park on your lunch break or are you more apt to down a sandwich during a meeting? Even a mindful snack during your toddler’s afternoon nap can help you on your way to developing a practice.
-Choose a plant that you love: Mindful eating is a great way to reinforce better food habits. Choose your favorite produce (in season is even better!) and notice the flavors and textures. Also notice how you feel after you finish. How is your energy, digestion, mood?
-Give thanks: Being grateful for the food before you is not only good for our souls, it’s good for digestion! Most of us spend a good deal of time in the sympathetic or “fight and flight” mode of our nervous system. Gratitude has been shown to bring us back into the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” mode.
Next time you sit down to a meal take a few deep breaths before diving in and remember, digestion begins in the mind!