By: Caroline Mackey, CNP, PTS
When is the last time that you can remember sitting down for a meal, at a table, without the TV or computer on? For many of us, that happens rarely or never. Unfortunately, eating in a rush is counterproductive for our digestion, weight and overall wellbeing.
Here are my top 10 tips for mindful eating:
1. Drink a glass of water 20 minutes before a meal. You can confuse dehydration with hunger.
2. Turn off all media and any other distractions, and sit down at a table to eat.
3. Take 3 to 5 deep breaths before you eat, filling the belly and expanding the rib cage. Close your eyes while you do this, and calm yourself before you eat. We can have stressful and hectic lives, and our body is often in the ‘fight or flight’ mode, wherein it’s difficult for your body to digest food properly. Deep breathing allows the body to return to ‘rest or digest’, which in turn means the food you eat will be much better digested and absorbed.¹
4. Don’t drink during a meal. This may sound odd as most of us always have liquid with our meals. However when we do, that means we often don’t chew our food thoroughly enough. This leads to digestive issues. Food in larger chunks is harder for the digestive system to break down, and can result in gas and bloating during or after eating.
5. Chew thoroughly. Food should be a paste-like texture before you swallow. This allows for ease of digestion.
6. Eat more slowly and enjoy the taste of your food. It takes the body at least 20 minutes to feel full, so we often overeat. It’s also nice to let ourselves relax as we eat; it should be a pleasurable experience.
7. Pay attention to any cravings you may be having while you’re eating. Going for the more starchy or simple carbohydrate part of your meal first? That could be a result of feeling tired and needing more energy. Incorporate good fats like avocado, raw nuts or seeds into each main meal, along with a good source of lean or vegetarian protein. This will help with energy levels and satiety throughout the day.
8. If you’re at work, try as best as you can to not eat at your desk. It is a big temptation for a lot of us given the demands we have, however just taking 20 to 30 minutes to step away from your desk and eat in a more relaxing place will be very helpful for your stress levels and digestion. This time of year it’s warm out, so take your food outside if you can. Then you also get the relaxing benefit of being outside.
9. Pay attention to your body as you eat. Are there certain foods that are not digesting well or causing you gas and bloating? When we take the time to be mindful when we eat, you have the opportunity to realize what foods may be affecting you. Common culprits are often dairy and gluten.
10. Learn what it feels like for you to feel satiated not ‘full’. Often full means we’ve overeaten, and eaten too fast. A good rule of thumb is eat about 75-80% of what you think is a full meal and hen see how you feel. Make sure at least 20 minutes has passed before you eat anything further to avoid eating more than the body needs. Allowing yourself at least 20 minutes to sit, relax, and enjoy your food is a great way to be kind to your body and mind.