Even though eating is an essential part of day-to-day life, few people actually take the time to enjoy their meals. The health care providers at One Medical Group share some tips on how to make the most of meals so that eating nourishes your body and mind. For many of us, busy lives mean eating wherever we can: behind the wheel, in front of a computer, around a conference table—just about anywhere except the dining table.
The act of eating in our society is too often a mindless task rather than an enjoyable, nourishing experience. Mindless eating and overindulging can result in negative health consequences like digestive disorders and obesity. Eating mindfully, on the other hand, encourages proper digestion and can aid in nutrient absorption, promote ideal body weight and help you develop a healthy relationship with food.
Mindful eating is not a diet. It’s a conscious way of eating and enjoying food for both good health and pleasure. Mindful eating is about bringing awareness and appreciation to the experience of eating. When you slow down and pay attention to how and what you eat, you’re more likely to make better decisions that will nourish your body. Here are some guidelines on how to practice mindful eating.
1. Sit down and unplug.
Sometimes eating can feel like another item on the to-do list. Do you rush through your day, eating whenever you get a chance? Or maybe you make time to sit and eat, but stare mindlessly at the TV without paying attention to what—or how much—you’re eating. Ever eat over the sink while contemplating how you can hurry to the next task? Guess what? Your mind and body need a break, and they need food to feel replenished.
How to do it: Avoid watching TV and talking on the phone while you eat. Stop working and step away from the computer. Set everything aside and take a break to enjoy and savor your food. Focus on your meal.
How you’ll benefit: Sitting down while you eat—without distractions—will encourage you to pay attention to your food and how you consume it. You might find that you’ve fallen into a bad habit of eating too quickly or that you’ve been eating without actually tasting your food. And because mindful eating encourages you to take a true break, it can help you feel more relaxed or focused as you carry on with the rest of your day.
2. Eat slowly.
Your brain time needs time to register that you’re eating and to communicate to your body when you are full. It takes the brain about 20 minutes to know that you’ve had enough food. Pausing in between bites can facilitate a healthy habit of eating slowly.
How to do it: Set your fork down in between bites, for starters. Pause. Finish what’s in your mouth before going for the next bite. Engage in stimulating conversation. Don’t aim to get full. Be satisfied.
How you’ll benefit: It’s very likely that you’ll eat a lot less. In this way, eating slowly helps prevent overeating, which causes unnecessary weight gain and digestive stress.
3. Chew well.
Eating on the run and devouring food without chewing very well can result in undigested food particles floating through the colon. These particles can trigger unpleasant symptoms like bloating, gas and indigestion.
How to do it: Saliva is full of active enzymes that help break down food. The longer food is exposed to saliva (through chewing), the easier it moves through your intestines. Chew your food thoroughly until it has a fine, pulp-like texture.
How you’ll benefit: Proper chewingkick-starts the digestive process and allows for better absorption of vitamins and nutrients. Good digestion is essential for overall health.