Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating in a hectic world is not easy. Eating intentionally is nearly impossible when you’re simultaneously working, rushing the kids around, or multi-tasking. However, a mindful eating practice can have a significant impact on your digestive function and overall health.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “rest and digest?” There are two major states in which our body functions, one is our parasympathetic state, the state of calm and rest- a time where our body can digest food properly. The antagonist to this state is the our sympathetic state, which allows for fight or flight mechanism and our “go, go go” response.

If you’re always go, go, go, the body is in a constant state of fight or flight, which puts a strain on your adrenals, causing digestive disorders like heartburn, chronic constipation or diarrhea, nausea, chronic fatigue, headaches and sleep dysfunction.

From an East Asian medicine perspective, the Spleen and Stomach are in charge of overall digestion. In general, stress from both physical and emotional perspectives can tax the Spleen, causing all sorts of digestive and metabolic disorders. So, by taking a moment to intentionally eat, you allow the body to process your food in the best way possible.

So, what is intentional eating and how do you do it? Here’s my checklist:

Intentional Eating

  • Step away from work and other distractions if and when possible
    • Shut the TV off, put down the project, keep your phone on the other side of the room.
  • Find a designated eating area
    • A dining room table, an empty desk space, a table outside, a place without distractions.
  • Prepare your food if and when possible
    • By making your own food, you know what ingredients go into it. You also put your own good energy into what you’re eating, allowing the body to more easily process food. Prepping food gives us an easy way to access readily available, healthy choices.
  • Set an intention
    • Taking a moment to be thankful for the time you spent cooking and the nutritious food you are eating is important. If you eat animal protein, taking a moment to thank the animal for their ultimate sacrifice. Gratitude in all forms connects us positively with our actions, allowing our body to intake food in a balanced and deeper way.

Gratitude in all forms connects us positively with our actions, allowing our body to intake food in a balanced and deeper way.

  • Chew slowly and completely
    • Amylase (a digestive enzyme) in our saliva helps break down food molecules. The more we chew, the better and more easily nutrients are digested by the stomach. Chewing slowly and taking at least 20 minutes to eat a meal also helps us feel full sooner. This reduces unnecessary caloric intake and increases metabolism.
  • Cook your veggies
    • Cooked veggies are easier for the body (Spleen/Stomach) to digest. Too many raw veggies like in salads overwork the spleen and add cold to your system. If you do eat raw veggies, having a warm glass of lemon water or ginger tea can help aid in digestion.
  • Eat Seasonally
    • Not only is eating seasonally great for your local economy and environment, the body is designed to process certain foods better during certain seasons. Food is more nutritious and delicious if you eat it soon after picking. In New England, we have four distinct seasons.
      • Fall & Winter: Cooked root veggies like sweet potatoes, radishes, carrots, squash and pumpkin. Fruits like pears can help moisten the lungs and are a great way to boost your immunity during cold season.
      • Spring & Summer: Fresh, raw, greenery along with fruits and veggies that are readily available in your garden or at the local farm. Summer is Spleen/Stomach season, so the body is more able to process raw food. However, depending on your constitution, you may want to consider still cooking an abundance of your veggies.
  • Move after eating
    • Waiting 30 minutes for smaller meals and snacks and 1 hour for larger meals allows the body to start digesting food. It’s great to get in the habit of taking a short walk or some gentle movements like cat/cow tilts, spinal twists, or rolling your back out after your body has had a chance to digest.

Ultimately, taking the extra time to eat mindfully can significantly change any digestive disorders, increase metabolism, reduce stress, and allow your body the energy it needs to get the nutrients it deserves.

Be Well,

Lexy

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