Scarf down lunch today while running errands? Eat dinner while watching TV or checking email? Breakfast at the kitchen counter while packing the kids' lunches? Forget that you ate a mid-day snack?
Did you know that our bodies absorb less nutrients when we are distracted (like checking our phone) during eating or drinking? If you are trying to improve your health through what you eat, the art of mindful eating is one practice that can reap huge benefits!
So what is mindful eating? It's simply becoming more aware of not only what we eat, but how and why we eat. Mindful eating is slowing down enough to pay attention to our food and the whole experience of eating and drinking. The act of slowing down and paying attention has important physiological and emotional benefits.
According to research, the practice of mindful eating reduces overeating, binge eating, emotional eating and other eating issues, increases weight loss, and may even reduce symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
We know this is a tough one. You are BUSY! Life is hectic! Just hear us out below for 3 good reasons and a How To guide for slowing down and giving your eating your full attention (at least every once in awhile!).
A few words about STRESS and DISTRACTION
When we are stressed our nervous system is operating under the need to survive (think “fight or flight”), and digestion is the least of its concerns. When we are relaxed the body is primed for digestion.
We don’t realize it but even mild stress, like watching the news or multi-tasking, can make our nervous system operate under the stress response rather than the relaxation response. Most of us operate under this stressed condition throughout the day, which puts digestion, healing, and restoration on the back burner inside our bodies.
DIGESTION, METABOLISM, AND NUTRIENTS ARE REDUCED WHEN STRESSED/DISTRACTED
During stress, blood is sent away from your gut (i.e. bad for digestion), there are fewer digestive enzymes and secretions to break down the nutrients in our food, and digestive muscles contractions are effected.
A 1987 study in the journal Gastroenterology showed that when we are distracted while eating, we absorb less of the nutrients in our food, reducing metabolism and digestion.
Spend time preparing healthy meals? That's awesome! But if you are distracted while you eat those meals, you won’t get as much of the benefit from them.
WHEN DISTRACTED WE EAT MORE
When we do something else while we eat, our brains are less likely to register that we are eating. Because digestion is slowed and we are less aware of eating, the brain takes longer to get the message “Time to stop eating, I’m getting full!”. Instead, our brains gets the message “I’m reading Facebook”.
Mindful eating primes the body to get the most out of the food we put into it and it can help to correct disordered eating, such as emotional eating or eating beyond the point of being satisfied. Plus, when we eat mindfully, we are able to truly enjoy our food and the experience of eating, which leads to feelings of abundance instead of deprivation.
THE HOW TO
1) SIT. Sitting assists your body in activating the rest and digestion branch of our nervous system, prepping your body to eat.
2) Turn everything off but conversation. PUT THE DEVICE DOWN (you can do it!). This is a difficult step. If you need motivation, review the info above in The Why. Think of this time as a little bit of a digital detox.
3) Notice your senses with each bite. TASTE your food. That may seem like a no-brainer but think about it, are you actually paying attention to the flavors of each bite? What does it smell like? Feel the texture of the food in your mouth. Are there any sounds? Look at the (ideally!) vibrant colors on your plate.
4) Slow down, chewing each bite well, further aiding digestion and giving your brain time to register feelings of fullness.
5) Enjoy your food! It is something to be grateful for.
As always, perfection is not the goal. Try one of the How To steps at your next meal and build from there. Consistent baby steps lead to long-term change in our habits, and that’s where magic happens!