Traditional Chinese Medicine theory places a large emphasis on mindfulness, from Qi Gong to seated meditation. One way we can incorporate mindfulness into our every day life is to practice mindful eating, which involves building a healthy relationship with the food you eat by being wholly present throughout the meal. Some of the several advantages you’re bound to experience include reduced stress levels, better digestion, and controlled eating behaviors.
Stress and Overeating
Stress is one of the major causes that lead to overeating; when stressed, people tend to self-medicate the issue by relying on comfort foods. However, this kind of impulsive eating can lead to further complications like weight gain and obesity, which can restart the cycle.
Not to mention, eating under stressful conditions can disrupt crucial communication between the body and mind. Stressful conditions also include multi-tasking while eating or trying to finish a meal within a small period of time.
Since people who eat for emotional and stressful reasons can’t tell the difference between their body’s cues for hunger vs. cravings, it’s impossible for them to know when they should stop eating.
How Does Mindful Eating Work?
A common misunderstanding is that mindful eating promotes a certain body shape, but that’s not the case at all. Diet cultures have revised the approach of eating mindfully, but it's so much more than just weight control.
Having a weight-focus can make things worse because it induces guilt, dissatisfaction, and a bad relationship with food. On the contrary, mindful eating can help you feel more confident about what you eat, so you can enjoy it guilt-free, and stop eating when your stomach cues that it’s full.
Alleviating Stress with Mindful Eating
Comparatively, mindful eating serves as a psychological barrier between satisfying hunger and overeating because you’ll be listening to your body and paying attention to cues. Digestion is a far more complex process than we think because it also involves continuous communication between the mind and gut. It can take as long as 15 minutes for the nervous system to get the message that the stomach is full.
The Right Techniques
Mindful eating is similar to meditation in a lot of ways. By practicing these techniques, your mind will be more ‘present’ so you can wholly experience the satisfying and nutritional benefits of whatever you’re eating.
- When approaching food, think carefully whether you’re really hungry or if you’re simply responding to an event or emotion.
- Think about where you’re eating: Are you doing something else while eating? Are you standing or sitting? Is it a crowded and noisy space?
- Take small bites of food, and close your eyes while chewing initially so it can help you focus by blocking out the world around you.
- Chew each bite for at least 20 seconds and pay attention to the flavors and textures at the same time.
- Enjoy the smell before taking a bite.
- Be mindful of how your belly expands while eating; don’t wait until the waistband feels too tight.
The Eastern practices of mindful eating are a great way to start reconnecting our body and mind over the things we consume. What mindfulness practices have you incorporated into your life?