Dietary habits and mindfulness are two significant aspects of a healthy and enriched life. Ever thought that combining the two could improve your life further? Yes! We are referring to mindful eating. So, what is it, and how does it benefit your health? Let’s understand.
Mindful eating means practicing self-awareness while eating and drinking. Instead of staying glued to the screen or doing any other activity, you remain in the moment and observe the sensations you experience with every morsel and sip. But why should you eat this way? After all, multi-tasking is in vogue. Sure! Multi-tasking may help you complete different tasks in less time. But when it comes to eating, multi-tasking makes food less enjoyable and may add a few pounds to your weight. On the contrary, being attentive while eating offers a slew of health benefits. Scroll down to know further.
1. Mindful Eating Helps Prevent Emotional Eating
Bingeing on chocolates after a break-up, drinking tea or coffee every time you feel stressed, late-night cravings-driven snacking are all examples of emotional eating. Food is comforting and activates the rewards system in our brain. However, relying on ‘comfort foods’ to deal with negative emotions is a surefire way to ruin health. Most of these foods are high in sugar or salt, fats, and refined carbs and adversely affect your health. However, mindfulness gradually trains you to acknowledge and process negative emotions rationally instead of guzzling food (or drinking and/or smoking) to suppress them.
2. Mindfulness Helps You Stop Overeating
Many of us do not stop eating when our brain tells us so, but only when the food gets over. It leads to overeating, an out-and-out unhealthy practice that can cause obesity, gas, and bloating, disrupt the body’s ability to regulate hunger, and increase the risk for diseases. Eating without distractions enables your body to listen when the brain communicates satiety. Further, slow eating may also help you feel full faster and avoid overeating.
3. Mindfulness Makes You Grateful
As per the statistics for 2021, 10 percent of the world’s population, i.e., 811 million people, slept hungry each night. Despite all the developments in the world, a square meal is still a privilege for many. Moreover, the farm-to-table journey involves many people—farmers, packagers, drivers, sellers, cooks, and us as buyers. But not many of us remember to be thankful for the food on our table. With awareness and peace in the picture, we learn to spare a few moments to express gratitude and appreciate the delicacies we enjoy every day. Thankfulness also contributes to general happiness by shifting our focus on the positives in our lives.
4. Mindfulness Helps Curb Hedonic Eating
Hedonic eating can rightly be called the opposite of emotional eating. It refers to eating for pleasure rather than for maintaining energy levels. As a result, our bodies produce and release dopamine and make us feel as gratified as when we are after shopping or having sex. Unfortunately, this dopamine hit can make us overeat without even realizing it. Over a period, hedonic eating weakens your brain’s satiety signals and contributes to weight gain and other health problems. Eating without multi-tasking helps gain awareness and break this habit.
5. Mindfulness Helps Differentiate Between Hunger and Thirst
Many people mistake thirst for hunger. The latter sometimes manifests itself as irritability, trouble concentrating, dehydration, and headache—all classic signs of thirst. However, living in the present moment helps you be more cognizant of your actions and enables you to remember the last time you ate. In addition, it helps determine whether you are hungry or just bored or thirsty. This way, you can better decide whether you need to take a meal, grab a snack, or just drink some water to feel sated.
6. Mindfulness Helps Identify The Reason For Food Allergy
Eating with distractions or in haste makes us miss the bodies’ subtle cues that indicate reactions to different types of foods. For example, a food rash after eating soy or peanuts or drinking cow’s milk may go unnoticed until it worsens or occurs multiple times. However, mindfulness during mealtimes helps you stay observant of your body’s response to various foods and drinks and recognize the triggers for food allergies.
7. Mindfulness Supports Health-Focused Purchases
Mindful eating gradually rewires your brain to choose and buy healthier foods. You learn to be consciously involved in all aspects of preparing a meal and weigh the pros and cons before purchasing a food item and using it while cooking. In addition, it might also make you more interested in gaining knowledge on nutrition and make healthy eating a habit.
8. Mindfulness Aids Digestion
The digestion process begins in the mouth when we chew. Saliva softens the food and eases its passage through your esophagus into your stomach. Being single-minded while eating makes you automatically pay more attention to chewing thoroughly, thus improving digestion. Mastication also makes mealtime a more flavorful experience as it elevates your perception of taste and makes you appreciate the food texture better.
How To Practice Mindful Eating?
The word ‘mindfulness’ immediately conjures up images related to ascetic or spiritual practices for many people. However, it is much simpler than what you think. All it takes is bringing the wandering mind back to the present moment. In the beginning, it may seem as tiring (and perhaps annoying) as disciplining a naughty child. However, practice can help you perfect the art of presence while eating and otherwise. Below are a few tips below to help you become a conscious eater.
- Keep all digital devices away while eating.
- Do not hurry while taking food. Always spare 10-15 minutes for snacking and meals.
- Chew your food until it tastes bland. The thumb rule is to do it 32 times.
- Exhale and inhale 5-7 times deeply before taking a meal immediately after a stressful event. Deep breathing helps calm your mind.
- Stop eating when you feel full.
- Be hormonally fit. Look here for more information on the role of hormones in emotional eating.
- Consult a doctor if you suffer from eating disorders.
Mindful eating is one of the precursors to healthy living. So get started with it now!
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