Dream with me for a sec: you are sitting comfortably, in a lovely and safe environment. You have a nourishing bowl of food before you, with aromatic steam rising up to delight your senses. Your belly expresses hunger, and you raise the spoon to your lips, enjoying all of the vibrant flavours. You chew slowly, taking in every taste, texture and sensation. Your body accepts the nutrients, the energy, the satiation. Your belly tells you when it feels full. You offer deep gratitude to the foods you consume.
This scenario is likely in complete contrast to that smoothie you chug while driving from A to B, or those snacks you munch while enjoying Netflix. Neither is right or wrong, but I do invite you to inch just one step closer towards mindfulness at mealtime.
I get it. We are busy, distracted humans caught up in all sorts of productivity cycles. I know that mindfulness might seem lightyears away most of the time. But consider this - you eat three or four times per day anyways (more or less is totally fine, too!), why not make one of those times just a little more mindful? If you are a busy bee, and you are struggling to carve out a mindfulness practice of say, meditation or journalling, maybe this will be just the thing.
I’ve discovered three main ways in which eating more mindfully can impact your body, mind, and spirit. I believe there are countless more, but here are the three big hitters, because nutrition is not only what you eat, but how you eat.
Listen closely, for these simple and subtle suggestions can leave a lasting impression on your wellness.
First up: physical symptoms like bloating, gas, hiccups, and even heightened food sensitivities- these can all be lessened by eating more mindfully. When you are eating distractedly, not chewing enough or eating too quickly, this can lead to larger pieces of food travelling through the digestive system, causing your organs to work much harder than necessary, and potentially leaving foods partially undigested. In this situation, you are being called to slowww down.
Your teeth are meant to break food down into a soft, easy-to-digest mass called a bolus. Consider how well equipped for this job your strong teeth are, compared to the muscle layers inside of your stomach and intestine walls.
As well, taking pause before you eat to both see and smell your food will allow your nervous system to recognize what you are about to eat. This will begin the process of salivation, the next phase of digestion. Saliva production in the mouth contains salivary amylase - an enzyme to begin the breakdown of carbohydrates. Once your mouth recognizes what you are eating, this signals to the pancreas and other organs what else is "coming down the pipe", so these organs can prepare other types of specific enzymes to break down fats and proteins.
All in all, if you give your brain and body just a little bit more time to decipher what you’re eating, the rest of the hard working parts along the way will be able to do their job more seamlessly. This is one simple way that a little mindfulness can improve physiological health.
Okay, so what else is impacted by mindful eating (or lack thereof)? Well, your relationship to your body AND your food. This is huge. Especially for female folks, in my personal experience within my practice. Countless women, and folks of all genders, for a multitude of reasons, have lost touch with their ability to communicate with their bodies. Many see food as the enemy, something to be feared. Some see food as a neutral fuel source, that must be intricately controlled and measured, and certainly not enjoyed. It’s complicated, and I know that your story will be completely unique, regardless of sex or gender.
But this I know, most everyone can benefit from providing some time and space daily for their body to communicate with them. We carry an infinite wisdom within us. Our body will tell us exactly when to eat, often what we need to eat, when to rest, and so much more. Simply begin with a little mindfulness at mealtime, and you will be amazed at how this relationship can naturally begin to improve.
Lastly, and most deeply, cultivating more mindfulness at mealtime provides connection beyond your own physical body, into something greater. Every food you eat has its own story, and its own energy carried within, beyond the calories. We can’t always consume local, organic foods, but when we do, this is a highly opportunistic time to really dive into the experience and pull in each and every last bit of energy from that nourishment. Regardless of how “clean” your food is, though, you can tap into the energy inside of it, and offer up endless gratitude and acknowledgment. Infusing your own gratitude into your food will allow it to vibrate even higher than ever. Eating can truly become a spiritual practice, if you so desire.
So, now that you understand why you would eat mindfully, let me tell you one easy way to give it a try. Check out my recently released 10 minute Guided Meal Meditation Experience. This has been a little project of love that I've been dreaming up for a while, and I'm so excited to have this out there in our virtual space, completely free to access if you're a subscriber.
Further beyond the guided meal meditation, if you’re looking for a way to really deepen your connection to your food, try not only mindfulness at meal time, but mindfulness throughout the entire process. Consider your food shopping or growing experience, as well as your cooking process. Set the stage by visiting a farmers market or ordering online from a local grower. This will make it easier to imagine the story of this food, and feel confident in knowing this food has a positive story and ties to the local area where you reside.
Next, try and enjoy the experience of cooking- infusing this food with so much joy and love.
And lastly, truly relish the experience of consuming the blessed, bountiful nourishment.