Mindful Eating Benefits and Practices

Mindful Eating: Feel What You Eat or Eat What You Feel

Nutrition is a relatively new science adopted in the 1930s with the first vitamin discovered circa 1926, but humans have been minding what they eat for centuries. Ask anyone who has tried to change his or her dietary habits if the process is simple or satisfying. Often, it is not about the food, but the behaviors, expectations, and methods people choose to alter their habits. And eating does not always mean feeling nourished. Opening one’s mouth and inserting the fork are mechanical, but savoring tasty morsels is experiential.

Chew your food slowly and thoroughly to experience the full food flavor. Photo courtesy ponce photography via Pixabay

Chew your food slowly and thoroughly
to experience the full food flavor.
Photo: Ponce Photography/Pixabay.

Whether you want to shed pounds, adapt your diet for health, teach your children good habits, unplug, or just enjoy moments more deeply, mindful eating might be the appetizer you crave.

What Is Mindful Eating and When Does it Start?

“Our inherent capability to know our body’s nutritional requirements and determine satiety is innate from birth, but tends to diminish around the age of four or five,” said Heather Barton-Lindloff, MS, RDN, LD and the Nutrition Manager for Early Child Education at Downeast Community Partners. After age five, it takes more effort for children and adults to pay attention to sensations and reactions without having to control them.

According to Mary LaVanway RDN, LD, CEDRD (Certified Eating Disorders Dietician) and a local Bangor area Hannaford Supermarket Dietician: “Mindful eating is the intentional act of giving your full attention to your eating experiences while also tuning into our body signals of hunger, fullness, and satiety. Simply put [it’s about] being very present while we are eating!”

Why Be Mindful?

Reduce Stress

Habitual responses and attitudes can hinder mindfulness because of a three-way tug-of-war among your body’s automated responses, your powerful brain, and your physical desires. The first step is to “show up at the table” without watching TV, being on a device, or multitasking. Racing thoughts and categorizing to-dos are the antithesis of staying in the moment, which could lead to emotional or overeating.

“When someone comes to the eating experience in a mindful, open, curious state of mind, it allows the nervous system to be in a more relaxed state that may aid in digestion,” said LaVanway.

Appreciate Food Sources

Jodie Mehuren, an organic farmer from Faithful Venture Farm in Searsmont explained, “As organic dairy farmers who love our animals and love farming, we believe the more you know about your food, where it comes from, and who helped create it, the better for you and your body. ”

The first step is to “show up at the table” without watching TV, being on a device, or multitasking. Photo courtesy Bill Kasman via Pixabay

The first step is to “show up at
the table” without watching TV,
being on a device, or multitasking.
Photo: Bill Kasman/Pixabay

Engage Your Senses

The key to instilling healthy eating, according to Barton-Lindloff, is to use all of your senses. “Our staff works with children to try new foods and to experience the taste of familiar and new foods, assorted flavors, texture, and even the appearance and colors of food, “she said. These practices can certainly apply to adults who can be particular about what they eat too.

Recognize Signs of Satiety

Mindful eating can further aid the healing process for those with medical conditions. Judy Donnelly, RDN, CSO (Certified Specialist Oncology), LD from the Dempsey Center, who works with cancer clients said, “I encourage acknowledging how one feels after eating in terms of the level of fullness, impact on energy level, and whether or not the food has an impact on the GI side effects that might be experienced due to treatment.”

Savor The Flavors

“Chew your food slowly and thoroughly to experience the full food flavor,” said Donnelly. Before or after eating, “Use a simple technique to encourage breathing in through the nose for four counts, pausing for four counts, and then exhaling through the mouth for four counts.”

Encourage Gratitude

Thich Nhat Hanh, a global spiritual leader and author of “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life,” wrote that it’s crucial to be grateful for food and not skip meals. Avoiding sustenance whether accidental or to lose weight, is a denial of food and focuses on deprivation.

Mindful eating as opposed to “mindless” eating can take practice and dedication. It means finding a way to participate in mealtimes with focus and intent. For some, this could include a new habit of preparing food from locally sourced produce and setting aside enough time to enjoy the whole experience. For others, it might be a shift in attitude toward food as something to savor instead of restricting intake. Most of all, it means allowing a new way of consuming food a “seat at the table” without expectation or judgment.

Story by Vanessa Newman, a Public Health Consultant for Bucksport Bay Healthy Communities Coalition and an adjunct faculty member for the College of Science and Humanities at Husson University.  She is also a curriculum designer and freelance writer who has published hundreds of articles and written children’s books and novellas.

Web Hosting Provided by Maine Hosting Solutions