The term "mindfulness" has become a part of humanity's vocabulary over the last decade. For me, it has been a gradual process to welcome the concept of mindfulness into my everyday living.
One of the areas of my life that I've really begun applying the concepts is to eating meals. "Mindful eating" is an awareness technique we can use to control our eating habits — what we put into our bodies, how much we consume, and how we interact with our food at the moment we're eating.
It's an "in the moment" awareness of what we're allowing into our bodies. I've found that being mindful in my eating practice does wonders to improve my mood, help with weight management and food cravings, and even lessen anxiety and depression.
“We do food every single day! Conscious Eating is a big step toward Conscious Living. Quality and Quantity of Food is directly related to our health and state of mind. We can use food to help us recover from Stress and Disease. Not taking food seriously will eventually lead to Stress or/and Disease.” - Natasa Pantovic Nuit
I love this quote because for most of my life I didn't see food as medicine or how it directly correlated to my quality of life. Once I made this mental shift, I can't tell you how it's changed my world.
6 Tips for Mindful Eating
I've studied this concept for quite some time, and it took me quite a while to apply it to my daily routine. The following is my practice for mindful eating. My hopes are that you'll take what works for you and apply it.
#1 - Eat when your body tells you you're hungry.
We've been taught throughout history that there's a one-size-fits-all solution to eating — that we should all eat three meals and eat specific foods to feel amazing. Thankfully, a growing body of research suggests that different bodies and blood types have their own unique needs. Beyond that, eating when our bodies feel hungry (instead of eating at specific times of day) may be much better for both mind and body. A recent study found that individuals who were moderately hungry before a meal tended to have lower blood glucose levels after eating a meal than those who ate when they weren't hungry.
I tend to be hungry every 4-5 hours. I listen to my body's hunger signals — if my tummy starts growling or if I feel low energy and/or cranky, I know it's time for a snack or meal. I've also found that waiting too long to eat leads to overeating. Be mindful of how hungry you actually are and take action when needed.
#2 - Choose a well-balanced meal.
Pick foods that are nutritionally balanced and healthy. I try to eat a vegetable, a protein, and a carb with every meal. I love bowls!
My absolute favorite bowl is chopped chicken breast, mixed veggies (like broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower), and a bit of rice. For a snack, I love apples with peanut butter, cucumbers with garlic salt, a bowl of grapes, cheese and turkey roll-ups, and avocado toast.
Don't get me wrong, I love a great bowl of pasta with garlic cheese bread as well. Like I've said before, anything in moderation! If I indulge in one meal, I'll be extra cognizant to eat healthy for the next.
#3 - Sit down to eat.
I always sit down to eat. In my earlier days, I'd grab food on the run, but now I know how important it is to sit down. Turn off all electronics, relax, and focus on every bite and what you're eating.
You may be tempted to eat on the run when you're by your self or stand and eat, but I strongly urge you to completely stop. Honor the food you're eating. Find joy in the fact that you have teeth with which to chew... that you have the ability to swallow... and that you have a digestive tract that can break nutrients down into energy for your mind and body. You'll quickly become aware of how less stressed you feel and how you can trust a little more in the universe for its ability to infuse your body with the nutrients its craving.
Do the same when you're eating with your friends and family. Turn off the TV and sit at a table with them. I love sitting down and eating with my husband and babies. Together we can appreciate our food and company.
Eat slowly and savor each bite, flavor, and texture. Give thanks to the universe for how wonderful it all is!
#4 - Drink as little liquid as possible with your meal.
It's been proven that when you drink excess liquid with your meals, it negatively impacts digestion. The more time we can take to chew, the more nutrients we'll absorb from our food. The very best liquid to drink while eating for digestion is warm water with lemon.
#5 - Limit sweets and sugar.
I try splitting desserts with my husband or friends or saving desserts for special occasions like holidays, birthdays, date nights, and parties. I have quite a "sweet tooth", so limiting desserts is a challenge for me at times, especially right before my period.
#6 - Wait 20 minutes after finishing your meal before getting back to life.
I recently learned that it takes twenty minutes for our brains to realize that our bellies are full. So, if you're still not satiated from your meal, wait twenty minutes, drink your warm water, and then decide if you're still hungry.
Eating mindfully is a practice, so don't be hard on yourself if it seems hard at first. Once you get the hang of it and make the practice you're own, you'll be amazed at how it will change your perspective on so many aspects of life.