Think back to the last meal you ate: Can you describe it? Did you enjoy your food, or quickly finish the meal to return to your day? Without judging, take a moment to reflect on your personal approach to mealtimes.
Multiple factors can influence sub-optimal mealtime experiences: distractions from family members, feeling bored, experiencing repetitive meals, being rushed to eat, food insecurity, and so much more. When we distance ourselves from our hunger cues/sensory system and instead rely on approaching meals as a task to check off the list, we are potentially affecting proper digestion and contributing to increased stress in our bodies.
Mindfulness is a practice where the practitioner is invited to use the power of focus to bring awareness and appreciation to the present moment. Mealtimes are one of the most powerful moments during the day in which mindfulness can be practiced by slowing down and learning to pay attention both internally and externally. When we slow down and practice mindful eating our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which ensures proper digestion. If we rush through a meal, our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) switches on and indigestion or other gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances are more likely to occur.
How can you cultivate a mindful eating practice?
This five-step technique provides you with the framework for starting a mindful eating practice:
- Check in with your body before you eat. Ask yourself, “How hungry am I? What is my body asking for right now?”
- Sit down to eat without electronic devices nearby. Take a few deep breaths.
- Use all five senses before and as you take your first bite of food. Notice the colors, smells, textures, sounds and finally all the individual taste sensations.
- As you continue to eat, imagine you are moving in slow motion and able to notice every detail of your meal. Chew completely and pause between bites.
- At the end of your meal, take a moment to check in with yourself and ask how you are feeling compared to a typical mealtime.
Mindful eating is a powerful tool to support our sense of self in a nonjudgmental manner. By practicing mindful eating, we take steps toward living fully in every moment!