How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Michal Pollan says: “We forget that, historically, people have eaten for a great many reasons other than biological necessity. Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity. As long as humans have been taking meals together, eating has been as much about culture as it has been about biology.”
You may be familiar with the term “mindfulness.” Well it definitely applies to eating your meals. The more attention you pay to how you eat your meals, the more you increase their ability to truly nourish you, physically as well as emotionally, and it enhances your enjoyment of your meals.
There are numerous aspects to consider in improving how you eat, including:
Atmosphere. Even if you are just having a cup of bone broth for lunch, it makes a difference in how it nourishes your body if you put it in a beautiful cup and sit down at the table to sip it slowly, enjoying the aroma and flavor. I recommend you always set a place and sit down to eat rather than standing at the counter or eating in the car. A calm, peaceful and relaxed atmosphere sets the stage for good digestion.
Distractions. Eating mindfully means focusing fully on the task at hand, which is enjoying your meal. Don’t read, watch TV, or use technology while eating. 28% of American employees don’t take a break for lunch, while 39% break for lunch but choose to stay at their desks and 2 out 3 people eat dinner in front of the television. According to results of 24 studies, people who eat distracted by laptop or TV were more likely to over-eat at mealtime and much more likely to have a bigger meal or snack subsequently. Not being “present” or “mindful” when you eat can negatively impact your waistline and your health!
Speed at which you eat. The faster you eat, the less time there is for your stomach to send signals of satiety to your brain, and the greater the chance that you’ll keep eating even when you’ve already met your caloric needs. In fact a large study found those who eat the fastest are 42% more likely to be obese than people who eat more slowly. Chewing each bite thoroughly goes along with this. It will not only slow you down but help you digest your food more completely. It also may be helpful to take a few slow, deep breaths before you begin your meal and then again several times during the meal.
Pay attention to emotions like gratitude, love, sadness, anger, stress, or happiness. Often if you are stressed, angry or sad and sometimes even happy, you eat for comfort rather than from true hunger. Being aware of your emotional state can help you avoid overeating and bingeing. If you eat when stressed or angry, digestion can shut down because your central nervous system shuts down blood flow, affects the contractions of your digestive muscles, and decreases secretions needed for digestion.
Timing. Research shows people who eat within two hours of going to sleep and snack frequently are at greater risk for obesity. Every time you eat, you spike your insulin levels, which prevents fat burning and encourages fat storage. Frequent snacking between meals creates insulin resistance so I strongly suggest cutting out snacking and just eating properly structured meals as well as closing down the kitchen by 7 pm or at least 2 hours before your bedtime.
Bringing just a little bit of attention to how you eat can make a big difference. The way you eat can powerfully enhance the healthy factors inherent in the good food you choose for even greater benefit.
Are you a mindful or a mindless eater? How can you make some healthy changes?
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