Mindful eating

5 April 2019

When we feel stressed, we tense up, and when our bodies tense up they don’t work as well. This can place strain on our body –: our digestive system is just one part that can suffer. To digest food, our intestines and stomach need to produce enzymes (little catalysts for chemical reactions that break down food) and be relaxed enough to move the food through the digestive tract. When we’re stressed and tense, this doesn’t happen as well as it would normally, which can upset digestion and even increase symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Mindfulness can help us to let go of tension and relax, which allows our bodies to work the way they should. 

Georgina Camfield image

Written by Georgina Camfield

Georgina is a Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) and a qualified fitness instructor.  

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Top 5 tips for using mindfulness to help enhance your diet:

  1. Snacking: when you’re likely to make unhealthy food choices (such as in the evenings if you’re craving a snack), practice some mindfulness before choosing the food. It’s likely that by focusing on the present moment you’ll opt for a healthier snack or realise you might not in fact need to reach for some food at all. 

  2. Deep breaths: try taking a few deep breaths, pay attention to what’s happening, and think about what it is  that’s likely to lead to unhealthy food choices. For example, is it feeling tired, feeling lonely, boredom or comfort that triggers an impulse to eat unhealthy food? Think about other ways that you could face these emotions with healthier behaviours, such as going for a walk, practicing mindfulness or having a piece of fruit. You’ll feel much better afterwards, and better than you’d feel after eating an unhealthy snack! 

  3. Enjoy your food: it’s easy to become disconnected from our food when it can appear so quickly on our plates. Take time to appreciate where the food has come from and how it’s got to your plate. By doing so, we begin to make wiser choices about the   food we eat, not just for us but for the world we live in. 

  4. Listen to your body: eat when you feel hungry and stop eating when you’re starting to feel full. By only eating when you need to, you’re giving your body the rest it needs to regenerate cells and boost healthy gut bacteria, both of which will help digestion in the long run. 

  5. Minimise distractions: by taking away distractions, such as the television, you’ll be able to focus on and appreciate the food that you’re eating. Multitasking and eating is a recipe for disaster. It’ll distract from being in the present moment and reduce the ability to listen to our body’s signals. This can lead to overeating and eating too quickly, which can cause problems with weight maintenance and digestive health. 

Practicing mindfulness is like any lifestyle change that we can make – it’s something that should be practiced regularly and made part of your routine. Similarly to if we want to lose weight, it doesn’t come by one trip to the gym or eating a salad, it requires persistence. Build mindfulness into a regular routine in order to achieve a healthier and happier you. 

Resources

Food and mood:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1744187006000023 
Mindfulness practice and eating behaviours:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471015314000191
IBS and meditation:
https://ebn.bmj.com/content/15/3/80
Fasting periods and gut health:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25470548 
Watching television and obesity:
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/obr.12637
Eating slowly:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24557959