How often do we rush meals, shovelling food into our mouths at speed in order to fuel up for the next event of the day? And how often do we eat while plugged into a device, barely noticing what and how much we are devouring? Both of these typical habits can lead to overeating the wrong foods at the wrong time with little to no appreciation of the ingredients on our plates.
Eating mindfully is the answer. The reality is, of course, that this is nothing new. This ‘style’ of eating has long been practiced by those who approach life more ‘mindfully’, yet it seems to be considered to be one of the latest diet related trends.
Mindfulness is actually a form of meditation, so eating mindfully could be described as meditative eating. It helps you connect with the emotional and physical sensations of eating, and is purported to be beneficial to a number of health related conditions including depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
Mindful eating is about being aware of the whole eating experience, from the cravings through the physical experience of eating to becoming sated.
The principles of eating mindfully are:
- Eating slowly, without distraction, chewing each mouthful
- Listening to the physical hunger cues and eating only until sated
- Learning to distinguish between hunger and craving triggers
- Eating with your senses, noting colours, aromas, textures etc
- Learning to cope with the guilt and anxiety associated with food
- Eating to maintain your health and wellbeing
- Being aware of the effects food has on your feelings
And most importantly……
- Appreciating the food you are consuming
These principles enable you to replace the automation of eating with more conscious thoughts, feeling and healthier responses. As you develop awareness of your eating practices, the physical cues that your body gives you and the feelings that food can create become clearer.
The time it takes to digest food has a lot of variables, and even depends on if you are male or female. The Mayo Clinic reported in a small study conducted in 1980 that it takes six to eight hours for food to make it through the stomach and small intestine down into the colon for final processing. They also concluded that it takes men a further 33 hours and women a further 47 hours before elimination. (Source: www.mayoclinic.org/digestive-system/expert-answers/faq-20058340)
While many individual foods can be digested in less than an hour, let’s not worry too much about exactly how long it takes and just accept that it takes TIME. As such, if it takes time to digest, why do we need to ingest so quickly? In the 21st century too many of us tend to ‘inhale’ during mealtimes rather than ‘consume’. Surely it makes sense to balance the speed of ingestion of food a little closer to the speed of the digestive process?
With this in mind, mindful eating can be seen as the ‘enjoyable, thoughtful consumption’ of food. Doesn’t this make sense? Food is a kaleidoscope of colours, flavours and textures – if we practise mindful eating we will start to appreciate much more the bounty that Mother Nature has gifted us with, and our health will improve as a result.
Today we seem to be consumed with wellness practices, exercise and the role of technology, and of course the latest fad diet that promises to be a cure-all of our health problems. But one of the best wellness practices would be to start eating well – and do it MINDFULLY.