Distracted food inhalation, or the act of shoveling food into your mouth so fast it looks like you’re not even swallowing, is huge today. To be honest, it’s how most people eat. In a former life—actually up until very recently—I was one of those people. While my food choices weren’t inherently “unhealthy”, I paid zero attention to how I was eating. Mindlessly picking and snacking—mostly on almonds, granola, or spoonfuls of almond butter straight from the jar, every time I was in the kitchen—was my thing. Chewing and sitting was not. I would virtually inhale my food very quickly, often times standing, usually glued to my phone or computer screen totally disconnected from my body. And without fail after every meal, I would feel like sh*t. Because what’s equally—sometimes even more so—important than the food you’re eating? HOW exactly you’re eating it.
A LESSON IN MINDFUL NOURISHMENT:
Actively paying attention changes everything.
Learning to eat more mindfully, or in other words, learning to actively pay attention—to your food, to how you feel, to your tastes, thoughts and emotions—consistently and with effort, is totally game-changing.
Aside from the physiological benefits like better digestion and nutrient absorption, mindful eating tunes us in. You learn which foods make you feel your absolute best and your absolute worst, and overeating eventually becomes a thing of the past. You begin to notice when you’re hungry, when you experience satiety and most importantly WHY you’re actually hungry and WHAT you’re really hungry for (spoiler alert… sometimes it has nothing to do with food). Body weight normalizes as a welcomed side effect of consuming the “right”* foods and the simple act of eating becomes tremendously more enjoyable.
It’s a spoon, not a shovel
6 tips for enlightened eating and mindful nourishment:
1. Chew your food.
Digestion begins in the mouth not the stomach. Our saliva contains enzymes specifically designed to break down food before it enters the digestive tract. The longer food is exposed to saliva (through chewing), the easier it moves through our intestines. When we don’t chew well enough to allow the enzymes in our mouth to work, our digestive system has a hard time functioning properly. To promote healthy digestion and proper nutrient assimilation and absorption, chew your food slowly and completely. Experts suggest at least 20 times per spoonful.
2. Put your fork down between each bite.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive the “I’m full!” message from your stomach so if you scarf your food down too fast, that satiety signal doesn’t register. Instead of rushing through your meal (which is hardly enjoyable), put your fork down between each bite to give yourself time to tune into your body, check in with yourself and gauge your fullness levels. Ideally we should eat until we’re 80% full so our digestive enzymes have room to work.
3. Minimize distractions.
Eating in and of itself is an activity worthy of your time and should not turn into an activity that merely accompanies another more important activity (like checking your Instagram feed). Therefore, minimize distractions by clearing time and space to eat. Try your very best not to eat in the car, on the go, in front of your computer screen, t.v. or phone. To be fully satisfied, both your mind and body have to be fully engaged. If you miss the entire eating experience because you’re doing something else, you'll finish eating feeling as if you didn't get enough and find yourself immediately wanting more.
4. Only eat when you’re relaxed.
Our bodies process food differently when we’re in different emotive states. When we’re angry or stressed, our heart rate goes up, cortisol levels skyrocket, our muscles get tense and our stomach tightens. Not exactly the ideal environment for healthy digestion. Instead of forcing down food when you’re angry or upset (we’re waaayyy more likely to overeat when we’re stressed), try completing a few cycles of deep breathing or going for a short walk before you eat to help relax your system.
5. Enjoy your food.
Even when it isn’t particularly “healthy”. Feeling guilty about food and food choices is detrimental to wellbeing. If you want to eat cake, eat cake. Mindfully make the decision and enjoy every bite. Don't shove it down your throat as you debate if it fits into your caloric limits for the day because where’s the enjoyment in that?
6. Express gratitude.
Appreciate the tastes, the textures, the colors, the nourishment and give gratitude every time you eat. Honor Mama Earth, the farmer, the grocery store employees and all those in between the farm and your table. Because like actively paying attention, gratitude also changes everything.
Give one (or all) these tips a try and let us know how it goes in the comments below.
For more info on enlightened eating and mindful nourishment check out this exclusive first look at our signature program, Nourished by Nature, our 14-day guide to living whole, eating well, feeling amazing, and making plants taste really f*%king good.
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*When we refer to the “right” foods, we mean the foods uniquely “right” for you because that varies tremendously. Here’s a perfect example.
**This post is part of our month long Back To Basics series. If you're just catching up:
1. Back to basics - An introduction
2. Food shopping made easy
3. Meal prep 101
4. Healthy eating IRL - An inside look at what we eat on a daily basis
5. Kitchen staples - How to make the perfect smoothie
6. Kitchen staples - How to make the perfect salad
7. Kitchen staples - How to make the perfect stir-fry
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