Improve Digestion and Enjoyment with Mindful Eating

 Stop. No, really. Stop everything.

Close your eyes and ask yourself this question, What has my body done for me today?

Savor, for a moment, the list that comes forth. Reflect on all the ways your body has served you.

Then ask yourself one more question, What have I done for my body today? Note how you have cared for and nourished it. Reflect on your answer without judgment.

One of the easiest ways to improve energy as we grow older is through proper nutrition. In addition to what you eat, the way you eat can also support your own self-nourishment. This practice is called mindful eating.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating invites you to focus on the act of eating, and on the bodys physical and emotional responses to that act. This focus offers you a fuller awareness of the sensual power of food, creating a space for you to recognize hunger and satiety cues.

Mindful eating is the opposite of how most of us eat today. So often, we eat whenever we can fit in a few moments, whatever is at our reach, (or at the next intersection) and however much is placed before us. This is mindless eating.

Being distracted from the act of eating has been shown to limit our brains ability to recognize that we have eaten. Eating is a sensory experience: we see and smell our food, hear and feel its texture against our hands and teeth, and of course, taste it. Distracted by other activities, we can miss these stimuli that are signaling to our mind and body. As a result, we may overeat, and yet leave an eating experience in a state of craving. This can lead to a pattern of overeating.

There is also little opportunity, or reward, in our culture for remaining mindful for a brief time after we eat. Our digestive system works most effectively if it is allowed focused time after we eat, to transform those foods into energy for our bodies cells. Racing directly from eating while engaged in mental or physical activity to yet more activity after we eat, diverts the full rush of energy desired for optimal digestion to other organs. This may contribute to the indigestion considered normal for so many, as well as for energy dips experienced later in the day.

Mindful eating is based upon the premise of mindfulness, that is at the foundation of many spiritual and yoga philosophies. Being aware and in the present moment brings a focus and balance that transforms the simple act of eating, into a nourishing and potentially spiritual experience.

Steps to Practice Mindful Eating

Consider incorporating these steps toward mindful eating to achieve true nourishment:

Before and after eating, accept and release three large breaths into and from your abdomen. Allow your abdomen to expand and contract with each breath. Bathe your digestive organs in breath in preparation for its important work.

Reflect silently for a few seconds before you eat, on the source of your food. Thank those who have grown it, transported it, and prepared it for you. Thank the plant or the animal that offered its life for your meal. If it feels comfortable to you, bless the food, and acknowledge the energy it will bring to you.

Practice focused attention on the food you are eating. Describe to yourself or another how the food tastes and feels to you. Finding words to describe flavors and textures connects the mind, and body around food.

Acknowledge your bodys signals, and seek nourishment at regular intervals during your busy days to maintain a steady energy supply.

Make a list of distractions, or external cues that personally influence your eating decisions. Identify if you sense these have undesired impacts on how you eat, and how these eating experiences make you feel. Make a second list of ways to manage these distractions and external cues, with meaningful activities that do not involve food.

Identify your favorite foods. Why are they your favorites? Are there any emotions you feel when you eat these foods? Reflect on the relationship between these foods and the emotions. Be aware of these relationships as you eat.

Define nourishment for yourself, and make food choices that support your personal definition.