Mindful Eating: What It Is + How to Get Started

Mindful Eating: What It Is + How to Get Started

Mindful eating may sound like another fad diet, but that’s far from the case. In fact, mindful eating – or conscious eating – isn’t a diet at all. Instead, it’s a practice that encourages you to pay attention to all aspects of your food, as well as the process of eating. The benefits? Reduced digestive problems and a tried-and-true way to beat the bloat.

So, let’s explore how you can get started with mindful eating, featuring tips from our in-house nutritionists. This is what you need to know…

First, how does mindful eating work?

Have you ever really thought about how you eat? How your mouth moves and your teeth chew through every meal? Probably not. It’s a natural instinct for us as humans, so we often do it on autopilot. But being mindful of your eating can help to reduce stress and take you out of ‘flight or fight’ mode. When in this state, our body is preparing to react to dangerous situations. The blood goes to our important organs ready for action so digestion isn’t prioritised. When in ‘rest and digest’ mode your body can focus on digestion and absorption.

That’s why a lot of mindful eating focuses on chewing, encouraging you to slow down as you take a bite, and be fully attentive to your food. Chewing is important. It is where digestion really starts. This is because amylase, a digestive enzyme, is produced in your mouth and starts the digestion of carbohydrates.

Another reason is that your teeth break down food into smaller pieces so that the enzymes in your digestive tract are better able to break it down. Poor chewing can result in digestive problems such as indigestion and bloating. It can also indirectly lead to weight gain, as you do not allow sufficient time for your brain to register that you are full. Poor chewing has been linked to decreased nutrient absorption.

The good news is, changing your chewing is quick, easy, and offers up a range of benefits. Mindful eating has been linked to better digestion, which in turn helps to reduce uncomfortable bloating. Taking your time allows you to notice when you’re feeling full, so you don’t eat more than you need or want to. It’s a weight loss technique that works in tune with your body.

So, how do I start eating mindfully? Follow these tips

1. Take a deep breath

Or three. Before you start eating a snack or meal, simply take three deep breaths. This activates the vagus nerve to help your body ‘rest and digest’.

2. Chew well

The first step in the digestion process is chewing our food properly. When we chew our food, our saliva coats the food and sends signals to the brain to prepare for the digestive process. Once the food enters the stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes work to break it down into small particles, which travel to the small intestine and allow the nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream.

3. Eat intuitively

As well as mindful eating, embrace intuitive eating. This framework encourages you to really listen to your body’s hunger cues and cravings, while tuning out harmful diet rules. The goal is to help you break free of anxiety around your food, as well as cycles of binge eating and deprivation. Don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Let your instincts guide you, and eat when you want to eat.

4. Remove distractions

As you eat, focus on each mouthful so the brain is fully engaged and signalling efficiently. Turn off the TV, put your phone down, and give your full attention to whatever you’re eating.

5. Enjoy probiotic-rich foods

Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and kefir, all are great for the gut and reduce inflammation, support digestion and enhance metabolism.

6. Optimise digestive enzymes

Having good amounts of hydrochloric acid in the stomach helps to break down food, thereby aiding digestion. I recommend sipping on two litres of water with a dash of apple cider vinegar throughout the day.

7. Keep a 20-minute gap between eating and drinking

When you drink just before eating, it dilutes the gastric juices and inhibits proper absorption. So, no matter what you’re drinking, wait 20 minutes before eating to help your body take extra nutrients.

8. Maintain a range of healthy bacteria

Your gut holds trillions of bacteria that help you to process your food, produce nutrients and fight disease. Take a good probiotic and focus on your wholefoods.

9. Add digestion-boosting herbs to your meals

If you feel the need for some extra support herbs that may aid digestive health, try fennel, ginger, peppermint, dandelion root, gentian root, slippery elm, liquorice root, meadowsweet, aloe vera, calendula, marshmallow root, goldenseal or St. Mary’s thistle. It also may be beneficial to try digestive bitters or digestive enzymes before a meal.

10. Eat foods rich in prebiotics

Prebiotics help to boost the growth of friendly bacteria. These include food substances rich in soluble fibres found in asparagus, bananas, endive, chicory, garlic, globe and Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potato, leeks, onions, legumes, Brussel sprouts and apples.

By following this guidance, you should begin to feel so much better. And, remember: 70% of your immune system is housed in the gut, so you should experience the benefits of mindful eating all round.
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