Do You Practise Mindful Eating?

Human beings consume and digest not only food but information, energy, emotions and ideas. You have to hear people, translate their words into meaning, and interpret what it is that they’re saying. You take in information, you comprehend it, and you articulate it. What energy do you typically take on in a day? Do you feel nourished by what you’re consuming?

In the fast paced time poor lives most of us lead our minds and our bodies are often misunderstanding the information or energy we are taking in – we are not transforming, metabolizing, or stimulating the correct responses on an energetic level and this goes right down to the level of our eating habits.

On every Yoga retreat I have ever been on there has always been ‘silent mealtime’, whether it’s just one meal throughout the week or every time we eat. Oh, and you still have to serve and share the food with your fellow students, there’s no option for room service, can you believe it? And there’s no scoffing your meal in front of the telly… probably a good thing actually, as it has been found that the length of a TV programme can determine how long you spend grazing! That’s pretty scary when you think that a lot of TV shows can last about an hour!

Giving your food the attention it deserves is something I prioritize during my Perfect Health training sessions and I thought I’d share some of what that means here, on this blog. Giving your food the attention it deserves is part of lesson 2 of the Perfect Health course: Nourishment for Body, Mind and Soul.

Before I started learning this content it seemed really obvious to me that the food we eat forms the building blocks of our physical bodies. I get it – it helps to build tissue, it comes in the form of proteins, carbohydrates and fats (and that’s pretty much all there is to it right?) Well, what I went on to comprehend is that yes most of the caloric foods are used for energy, but it’s the phytochemicals in the food that gives us the nutrients that our physical bodies need. The ancient Yogic texts emphasize the importance of a plant-based diet for spiritual reasons and I respect that, but what really surprised me was when Dr Sheila Patel, a board-certified family physician and Medical Director of the Chopra Centre said at a medical conference to a room full of 300+ practitioners of the Western medical system “if you’re eating more of a plant-based diet, then you’re going to be consuming more phytochemicals”.  So where exactly do we find these phytochemicals? As they say “eat your greens!”

Surprise surprise. I think we can all remember our parents/carers telling us to eat our greens, but is Mum always right?! Another tendency my mother has always had is not to peel the vegetables (she even eats kiwi fruit with the skin on!) As it turns out, most of these phytonutrients are attached to the skin. Right again, Mum!

Organic acids help to promote the body’s appetite and digestion. Not only citrus fruits, sour fruits and berries, but also hot peppers, herbs and spices can help to stimulate digestion and boost metabolism. These plant-based food groups are also very detoxifying for the body because they encourage veins to dilate and a lot of spices themselves are anti-bacterial in nature and encourage elimination.

In terms of nourishment, the Perfect Health curriculum talks about eating for balance in body and mind. Many years ago at a meditation workshop, we had come together to experience different ways we could tap into this practice of mindfulness. We used all five of our senses. We practised candle gazing for sight, listened to Tibetan healing bowls for sound, inhaled the aromas of incense for smell, and held onto objects of nature for touch working through each sense in turn, and switching off the other senses as much as that is physically possible! For taste, we practised a chocolate meditation – YUuuuuUUUUMM! We were each given a square of chocolate to dissolve in our mouths as slowly as possible. That chocolate was very mindfully consumed, let me tell you.

So, now we come to this idea of mindful eating that I’m so passionate about and there have been a number of studies in this field, which is extremely exciting for us health and wellbeing geeks, but first I would like to stipulate, it is neither realistic nor expected to practise mindful eating all of the time! However without a doubt, eating mindfully as much as possible is both desirable and attainable.

I’ll leave you with some mindful eating tips.

1) Eat freshly prepared foods and all the colours of the rainbow

To prepare really nutritious foods does take some time so it’s really good to get yourself organized during the week, think ahead about what you can pre-prepare, and what you already have to hand.

2) Bring awareness to your eating habits

Listen and learn to be aware of physical hunger, be aware of portion size, and what times of day you’re taking in food.

3) Smell the aromas

Savour each mouthful. How long does it take you to chew?

4) Include a variety of tastes

A craving or hankering means you’re probably missing that
taste in your meals. Is it sweet? Sour? Salty? Those are the top three we crave most.

5) Chew some roasted fennel seeds after a meal

This decreases gas, decreases bloating, and increases the digestibility of food. As does cooking with herbs and spices.

6) Take three deep breaths before eating

Think about the food you’re about to eat, where it came from and be thankful for the experience.

Research has shown that giving your food the attention it deserves results in substantial improvements in weight, eating behaviour, and psychological concerns. It’s not surprising that our emotions have a profound impact on the way we eat, and the ability of our body to metabolize and assimilate our food. So don’t eat when you’re upset. You’re bringing that energy into the food! You can instead wait until things settle down and get worked out, because when you’re upset you’re in the Fight or Flight mode, and nothing’s really being digested at that time!

Let me know, do you enjoy preparing food? How much time do you spend cooking on a daily basis? I’m hungry to hear your comments below. And what did your mother teach you about food that you only appreciated later in life, huh?!
Om Shanti, Lucy x