I was inspired to write this article after an experience in a restaurant chain. A friend took me to a place where each table had its own TV screen, and I was a little sad seeing people eating while staring at the square boxes. From that place in my heart, I decided to share some helpful ways to consider the connection between mindful eating and health. I invite you to remember that the ritual of eating is in part a tool to ensure you get to know your body and how food affects it. Being ritualistic about food can be helpful losing weight and connecting the family. What happens on the table is a sacred act of communion with nature and ourselves. Minful eating is a way to strive for balance, health & relaxation. Here are my reasons to rescue the ritual of eating.
Unconscious eating happens in front of the TV, at the computer, while doing physical tasks, when you read a book or stare at your phone, even in your car or when you are “on the go”. I know modern life asks us to do this sometimes, but we can stop it from being a daily routine. We have become a society of auto-pilot eaters; but when we eat fast, we cannot recognize the nuances of flavors, colors or textures of our food. This has made us more susceptible to eating the bland foods of these days and unaware of those overly artificial.
When we take food for the sake of filling our stomachs we forget that we are living creatures with complex nourishing needs. Learning mindful eating can stop you at the very moment you are about to overeat and it can divert you from a craving attack or overindulgence. Even better, it will open you to making new food choices. ”You are what you are able to digest”, take time to slow down and use all your senses so your body can assimilate all that a meal has to give. Eating fast and with little chewing makes your digestive system work harder leading to heartburn, chronic constipation and feeling bloated. Science confirms this; when you smell, look at and thoroughly taste your food, enzyme secretion begins preparing you for good digestion. The most important part of the ritual is to be present. When you don’t pay attention to your meal by doing something else while eating, your body has to divide energy and blood flow between two tasks. This is referred to as prioritizing blood flow, and your body will respond first to locomotive (body movement) and brain demands when they compete against digestion. As a result, your nutrient absorption may be compromised and shortly after a meal you may feel hungry again.
Multitasking while eating is also a stressor, and this stress response superimposes the rest and digest response. As a result, you could interrupt digestion to the point that undigested foods seat in your organs for hours. Finally, try not to go running to do something right after eating. It can take up to 30 minutes for the message of “fullness” to get from the receptors in your stomach to your brain; so if you don’t take time to rest after the meal, the chances of overeating are greater. Keep mindful awareness even after the meal. A good trick is to journal your meal right after you finish. This closes the ritual and makes you aware of what and how much you ate, preventing you from eating more than necessary.
Try this from now on: Give yourself no less than 20 minutes to sit down and eat. Even if you are on the road, find a park, a public bench, a set of steps, somewhere to sit down and eat in peace. Offer gratitude before your first bite, turn off the TV, radio or any other loud devices, and do not eat with your cell phone next to you (any of these devices will constantly interrupt the flow of attention away from your meal) Chew each bite with gratitude until it becomes liquid and pause to rest half way into the meal. At the end, offer thanks again and take a few minutes before resuming your day.
Life is too short to miss the beautiful gift of each meal. The results will be better digestion, calm nerves after eating, deep nutrient absorption, less cravings and a renewed connection with your body. Please cherish each meal and teach your children the sacred and beautiful art of eating. Invite them to sit at the table with you, engaging in pleasant conversation so you can become closer, one bite at a time.