Admire the whimsical twist of your spaghetti; the curl of your dark, green kale leaf. Take a moment to smell their aroma. Listen to the sound of the fork as it punctures the kale. Place the fork in your mouth and feel the beautiful interplay between mouth, teeth, and tongue. Then chew. And chew some more. How does it taste? How is the texture changing in your mouth? Swallow. Put the fork down.
And do it again.
Presence and awareness are at the core of mindful eating. Mindful eating is being touted as a way to lose weight and gain a healthier relationship with food. But mindful eating can also help eliminate common uncomfortable digestive complaints such as bloating, heartburn, gas, and constipation. If you experience these symptoms, take a moment and observe how present you are when eating. While clearly uncomfortable—and at times even debilitating—these indications can serve as an opportunity to look more closely at your life.
Was your last meal in the car or in front of the TV? Did you put your fork down at all between bites? And, perhaps, in this self-reflection, you may be inspired to slow down, observe, and be more present with your food. It is in a state of calmness, focus, and presence that our bodies are best able to properly digest, assimilate, and absorb our food. Because it is only in this state of presence that saliva and digestive enzymes are most efficiently produced, and peristalsis (the movement of food through our intestines) is enhanced so that food is properly digested and moved through our digestive tract, thereby preventing digestive complaints.
It may not be possible to eat mindfully at every meal. As a mother of a two-year-old—I find it near to impossible. But even eating mindfully with just one meal a week can start the process of raising awareness with our food and getting one’s body into a state of optimal digestion.
Here is a list of suggestions that may help shift one’s focus toward mindful eating:
- Set an intention before you begin to eat your meal. For example:
“I will eat slowly and mindfully.”
“I will listen to my body and stop when I feel full.”
- Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and close the newspaper. Focus on the food.
- Put the fork down between each bite.
- Chew your food thoroughly.
- Consider eating in silence.
This may be challenging if you eat your meals with your family, but it helps focus the mind and body on being present and appreciating the details of the meal (color, texture, sound, shape).
- Light a candle, or use flowers or other centerpieces to create a pleasant dining experience, and to remind you to be present and mindful while eating.
- Enjoy your food—without judgment or criticism.
By taking small steps toward more mindful eating, you will gradually transform your relationship with food, your body—and with yourself.
Dr. Maggie Ney is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor and co-director of the Women’s Clinic at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Ney specializes in female hormone balancing and healthy aging and understands how the interaction of diet, stress, hormonal changes, unhealthy digestion and a build-up of toxins affect a woman’s body and the aging process. In addition to being a bio-identical hormone specialist, she uses lifestyle modifications, diet, nutrient therapy, herbal medicine and homeopathy to address the root causes of her patient’s health concerns. In line with the core principles of naturopathic medicine, Dr. Ney believes that the body is inherently healthy and self-regulating. You can also visit Dr. Ney’s website HERE.
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