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3 Mindful Eating Tips for Improved Digestion

by Erin R. Windrim 2 months ago in wellness
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Struggle with digestive issues after a meal? The way you eat may be the culprit.

Many of us experience digestive complaints following a meal, such as excessive bloating and gas, heartburn, indigestion and stomach ache. All the pleasant, sexy side effects of our modern way of eating: hastily, mindlessly, and often on the go or distracted. Our busy lives are partially to blame—which may be difficult, yet not impossible, to work around—but our habits, built through our upbringings and social influences, are also to blame.

Individuals raised eating family meals in front of the TV or on the road after hitting up the drive thru are likely to continue these habits well into adulthood. Likewise, individuals raised eating family meals together at the dinner table with no distractions, other than simple conversation, are also likely to continue this way of eating as they become independent.

Even if you exist in the latter category, maybe somewhere along the way you start dating someone who likes to eat dinner in front of the TV, so as a couple this becomes the norm. Or you start working a busy, stressful career and the rare times you get to eat, it’s a chore that gets taken care of as quickly as possible.

At some point you realize that you’ve been overeating, haven’t been enjoying your food as much as you used to, and are suffering with more digestive issues than ever.

Enter mindful eating: A simple concept to bring us back to a more engaged, present and relaxing way of enjoying our food.

What is mindful eating?

Put simply, mindful eating is based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, a form of meditation. Mindfulness is being in a state of full presence and gratitude for the current experience.

Eating mindfully allows for a heightened sensual experience of our food, and helps to better hear, understand and respond to internal hunger and fullness cues. Eating our food mindfully also promotes relaxation and better digestion.

“Chew your drink and drink your food.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Here are my 3 key mindful eating tips:

1. Listen to your internal hunger & fullness cues.

When prompted to eat, ask yourself first if it’s true hunger, based on the sensations in your body. Real hunger sensations, depending on the person and the level of hunger, could feel like (but is not limited to) a gurgling or gnawing in the stomach, light-headedness, headache, shakiness, irritability, or lack of focus.

If not true hunger, consider what emotions are beneath the surface of your desire to eat. Maybe you’re feeling boredom, sadness, loneliness, or anger. Perhaps instead of food you need rest, fresh air, or to have a good laugh.

Consider what other needs may require attention. Do you have something you need to get off your chest? Are you overtired and need to have a power nap? Are you overwhelmed and need to ask for help? Your needs outside of hunger deserve tending to as well.

If you are experiencing true hunger, then eat! Ask yourself what you’re craving, what your body needs in this moment, and what is available to you right now. Between these things, find something that will satisfy you and feel good in your body.

Aim to eat until satisfied and comfortable. This will feel like contentment in the stomach and a diminishing of hunger sensations, rather than a feeling of heaviness, sluggishness or pain.

2. Set the mood & decompress before eating.

Have a clean, comfortable space to eat, and one that allows for proper posture (not laying down, slouched or crunched).

If you have time, put on calming music and light a candle. Set the table in a way that is appealing to you.

Most importantly, turn your devices off or silence them and keep them away from you. Personal devices and TVs are the biggest and most common distractions from our food, leading us to eat mindlessly and putting extra stress on the body as it tries to multi-task.

Once seated, take three to five deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Take your time with this if you can. It should feel calming and relaxing.

Finally, express gratitude for your food. This can look like whatever you want it to. It could be as simple as saying, out loud or in your head, “I am grateful for this food,” and visually taking it in and acknowledging it before diving in.

3. Engage your senses by eating in a slow, undistracted way.

Take in the texture, sight and smell of your food before taking a bite.

Begin with one small bite, keeping the food in your mouth longer than usual to really taste it.

This part is also super important for healthy digestion: Chew slowly and thoroughly, putting the food and/or utensils down between bites. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Chew your drink and drink your food.” By this he means to chew your food to the point that it becomes smooth, almost to the point of being liquid, and take your time drinking your water rather than gulping it down. Your body will thank you for it.

Take more deep breaths and small sips of water as needed. Avoid drinking large amounts of fluid just before, during, or immediately after eating.

Avoid rushing away from the table, if possible. Linger for a while. Reflect on the experience. Which part of your meal tasted the best? Did it taste different than the last time you ate it? Did you enjoy eating this way?

There you have it! Hopefully implementing mindfulness into your eating routine will help you and your digestion feel more calm. This does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach; start with one of the tips above at a time, and once it becomes a more natural habit, move on to the next.

Interested in diving deeper into Mindful Eating?

Get my Mindful Eating Guide, a 20-page interactive PDF in which you will learn to honour your individuality, tune in to your unique body, and celebrate and savour your food through four educational pages, six interactive worksheets, plus my three mindful eating tips and guided exercise on how to practice mindful eating.

wellness

About the author

Erin R. Windrim

Certified Holistic Nutritionist, recipe creator & wellness event host at wellandfree.ca | Also a wellness brand designer at erinracheldesigns.com

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