Improving our diet is one method for achieving better health. Usually, “diets” focus on nutrients to consume and foods to avoid. Focusing on food first is not always the best approach to making nutritional change. In fact, first learning how to eat is often the key to make eating healthy a lifelong habit.
Eating mindfully is a concept I frequently discuss with my nutrition clients. We often associate mindfulness with awareness. One way to tap into awareness is to be perceptive of our own physical sensations and thoughts. With regard to eating, that includes tuning into the aesthetics of your food, the aromas, the texture, and the intricacy of flavors. Further, you might become aware of your thoughts about the food, such as, “this looks delicious,” or “I would never eat that.” In ELEVATE WELLNESS programming, we utilize nutrition practices to create the habit of awareness or mindfulness. We do so by tuning into our food environment and becoming aware of the foods we eat. Yet, the first step to developing that awareness is by creating practices which are centered around how we eat, not what we eat. For the next two weeks, you might try doing the following:
- Slow down – time your meals to last 15 minutes.
- Chew each bite fully, then swallow, and breath between each bite.
- Set your fork down between bites.
- Minimize distractions (dedicate 15 minutes to just eating without being distracted by email or your phone).
- Embrace the flavor, aroma, and appearance of your food.
Each of these practices are purposefully designed to optimize your ability to digest and assimilate the foods you eat while creating a more peaceful relationship with your food. A peaceful relationship with food enables balance, consistency, and an appreciation for the foods that we eat that provide nourishment as well as pleasure. By practicing these behaviors, you are setting a foundation for healthy eating before even considering what it is that you eat.
Your digestive processes take time. Activated by your parasympathetic nervous system, your GI tract undergoes critical processes that breakdown the nutrients in foods that you eat. These are absorbed into your blood and transported to your liver for processing, then sent out for whole body utilization. Allowing adequate time for these processes to take place often controls your ability to turn nutrients into energy and building blocks for all of the cells and tissues in your body. “Eating mindfully,” sets a foundation of a healthy gut-brain symbiosis that generates a healthier mindset for eating as well as many tangible physical benefits.
That is why spacing your meals at least 3 hours apart (the average time for gastric emptying) can help to create more awareness of your eating behavior and enhance the benefits of eating healthy foods.
Each of these eating behaviors enables your GI tract to do its job more efficiently. Furthermore, you are becoming more engaged with the action of eating. As you do so, the food choices you make become clearer to you. With clarity, you enable yourself to make better food choices. Therefore, it is my recommendation before trying a new “diet” plan, try “eating mindfully” first, build healthy eating behaviors into your life, then optimize what you eat. First learn how to eat, then focus on what to eat.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]