Mindful Eating for Digestive Health and Inner Peace
How many meals do you eat in a week where you fully experience all the sensory delights of the myriad tastes and textures?
Being mindful while you eat is a great way of being more present in life whilst simultaneously improving your digestion.
Mindfulness practices are very useful for staying in touch with yourself and being more present to the life that is unfolding all around you. Mindfulness is simply the practice of paying attention without judgment or analysis of what is happening in either your internal or external environment in the present moment. With practice, being mindful can free us from habitual patterns of thinking, feeling or acting that may not support our mental, emotional or physical health. It is really about getting in touch with ourselves and our world and staying present which helps us find peace and balance in life.
So many of my clients experience anxiety and worry and that means they tend to live with a future focus. In many cases of anxiety we concentrate on thinking the worse case scenario as we project a whole range of possibilities, rather than staying present to what is actually happening in the moment. Before we know it we have stimulated a stress response as our body finds it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what we are imagining. So on this level, our thoughts and feelings become our reality – kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. So staying present and being more self-aware and mindful is the perfect antidote to anxiety.
You can apply mindfulness practices to any part of your life and it is particularly good to use something that you do routinely. Using food and eating has the added benefit of improving your digestion. Many of the signals our brain sends to our gut to promote digestion start with the senses. The visual appeal of a meal, the smells and the tastes all activate the digestive process and stimulate the release of enzymes and acids that allow us to fully breakdown our food. Without a healthy digestive process it doesn’t matter how good the food we eat is, as we will simply fail to get the full spectrum of nutrients out of our meals.
Here are my top tips for being mindful around food:
- Listen to your body’s cues.
You can learn to notice physical hunger and satiety messages to guide your decision to both begin eating and to stop eating. This will help you to avoid emotional eating or skipping meals and learn to see that food is a nourishing friend.
- Be more conscious of the foods that you buy.
Be conscious of the foods that you buy at the shop or market. Are they processed or natural? How have they been raised – humanely or with cruelty? Shopping for our foods with awareness means we are more likely to choose ethical, organic or sustainable sources and local food with low food miles.
- Prepare your food with full awareness.
Notice the colours and textures as you chop your food and enjoy the smells that arise from cooking. Notice how much your digestion is prepared through arousing the senses.
- Slow down while you eat.
Take the time to sit down without the distraction of TV, computers or radio. You want your brain to stay fully present to the act of digesting! It is far better to enjoy a social setting with human company while you eat – and a great way of creating quality family time if you have kids.
- Really chew your food and taste each mouthful.
I like to do this when I eat out at a restaurant – trying to work out all the ingredients that make up the flavours – for example which spices and herbs were used. You can also engage your kids in this process as a guessing game – you might even consider blindfolding them for fun and get them to guess what they are eating.
- Have gratitude for the food on your plate.
Appreciating where the food came from on our plate is a great mindfulness tool. Consider all the people that were involved in growing the food and transporting it to the markets and shops where we buy it along with the shopkeepers who provide us with easy access to our food. You can even be thankful for the electricity and gas that allows us to cook our food with such ease and speed. Say a simple blessing of appreciation – either in silence or out loud before you eat.
So applying these mindfulness tips around food and eating is a great way of tuning in to your inner wisdom and being more present and conscious in our world. Considering how many of the world’s people still have to gather firewood to make a fire to cook their meals, grow or hunt for their food or walk many miles to barter at markets – makes you realise how blessed we are.
So start nourishing your body, mind and spirit with conscious eating and mindfulness…it really is a wonderful health tool!