Mindful Eating

Changing the conversation from what we eat to how we eat

Diet is such an important aspect to building health. A clean diet does ultimately lead to increased vitality, vigor and overall well being. However, what if I told you that your clean diet can only take your health up to a limited point? What if I told you that its not what you’re eating, but how you’re eating that could be contributing to lingering problems? Humans have a natural and inherent affinity for food. We have a closely interlinked relationship with what we eat. Yet, so many of us have dealt or are dealing with issues surrounding food: what to eat, when and how much; developing or breaking down personal love/hate perceptions around our favorite foods; constant self-bargaining over exercise and calories/types of foods; etc etc. The truth is, developing a healthy relationship to your diet can have a greater impact on your health than simply and mindlessly eating the right foods.

Let’s take one meal in two different scenarios for an example. In both examples, the food choices will be the same – but you will see how our relationship to our diet can play a huge role in building optimal health. In the first scenario, you get up and get ready for work in the morning. You rush to get your breakfast smoothie made and grab it and go. You drink the the smoothie and let it pass through your mouth without chewing, while driving in rush hour traffic. You’re stressed thinking about what your morning meeting is going to look like – and within 10 minutes your smoothie is gone and that’s the end of your breakfast.

Let’s look at the next scenario: You get up and get ready for work in the morning. You take a few deep breaths while entering the kitchen, before you prepare your food. While you quickly and mindfully put your morning smoothie together, you’re giving thanks and gratitude for this nourishment. You take an extra 15 minutes to sit down in the comfort of your home, and enjoy your smoothie – allowing yourself to enjoy each bite in your mouth before swallowing. When you’re done with your meal you move on with your day and you’re ready to focus on the next task at hand more fully.

In the first scenario you have an example of someone who quite possibly did not do well enough on planning ahead of time to allow for an extra 10 minutes at home to finish their meal. However, you can see how all of this surrounding meal time can affect your stress levels and ultimately how you digest your food. In the second scenario, the body is in constant relaxation mode and you were in control of your time and yourself. You had time to enjoy the meal you prepared to nourish the body and you truly savored every bite. There are several key factors in healthy digestion exemplified above: Stress, gratitude, and chewing. Stress plays a tremendous role in our body’s ability to digest our meals properly. An overly stressed body can have a severe impact on the body’s energy necessary for full uptake, transfer, and utilization of nutrients. Gratitude is an amazing tool to help relax the mind and connect with food in a positive way. And last but not least, chewing is something so many people forget to do. Truly masticating your food is the first step in digestion, NOT swallowing! The enzymes in your saliva helps breakdown food while you chew preparing for further breakdown of the food into smaller parts. Chewing is your body’s first and foremost digestive aid. And the more you chew, the better. Even food that is already “mushy” such as applesauce, yogurt, smoothies, ice cream... all of these foods need to spend time with the enzymes that our mouths produce while chewing.

There’s no amount of healthy eating that could overcome a mind and body that is constantly stressed, self-deprecating, and chewing improperly. While we can always improve what we eat, we can also work on improving how we eat. With mindful eating plus the proper diet, we can truly build wonderful and vibrant health. So remember to breathe and enjoy every bite and chomp. You may learn some pretty neat stuff about yourself along the way. Shine on!