Fermented by L A B

Gut Health

What Is Mindful Eating and How Does It Benefit Digestion?

Gut HealthAlana Holloway

I’ve been the family record holder of speedy eating and of the ability to eat A LOT, for as long as I can remember.  “Hollowlegs”, a play on my surname Holloway, has been a name that’s been with me since childhood.  I used to feel pretty smug about both eating ‘achievements’ (I know how ridiculous it sounds to have counted them as achievements) but in recent years, I’ve realised that neither eating behaviours do my digestion any favours.  I’m often hit with after dinner bloating, discomfort and gas… no surprises there, then.  

 
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In a bid to approach the way I eat with more respect for my digestive system, I’ve tried many things: smaller plates, putting my knife and fork down in between mouthfuls, chewing each mouthful over 10 times, stopping eatingbeforeI feel full and cooking only the amount that’s needed for that meal, not extra for leftovers (because, y’know, I’ll only eat them from the pan!)  My experiments have caused me to look at the way others eat, too.  And I realised, it’s not just me who eats without much consideration.  From what I’ve seen - be it at restaurants, out and about or at home with friends/family - most of the time, we eat without even realising we’re doing so.  Whether it’s because we’re watching the TV, distracted by our smart devices, eating whilst driving, eating at our desks, eating whilst walking (anybody else finish a chocolate bar in the time it takes them to walk from the supermarket to their car?!), eating from the kitchen counter… the list goes on.  So last week I took to Instagram to ask if any of you had tips that could help the rest of us eat more mindfully. 

But no…

About 99% of the people I asked, didn’t know what Mindful Eating was or had never heard the term before. Add to that, they confessed to eating in all the ways I’d seen people eating out and about, and in the way I myself eat.  

SO WHAT IS MINDFUL EATING?

Mindful Eating is the practice of eating completely presently, without distraction.  

Basically, how we probably all ate before the dawn of technology and oversubscribed lifestyles. It’s about looking at your food, smelling it, noticing different tastes and textures, taking a breath between mouthfuls, chewing properly, stopping when your comfortably full.  It can even extend to cooking; do you cook in a rush whilst doing ten other things, just to get something on the table, or do you cook with enjoyment?

WHY BOTHER EATING MINDFULLY?

All of the above allows your body to prepare for what it’s about to receive.  It allows your salivary glands to be simulated and gets your digestive enzymes going, which results in more efficient digestion and less post-meal digestive complaints.  It’s also more enjoyable; food tastes much better when you’re actually paying attention when eating it.  Lastly, it shows appreciation for the food, for how it got to your plate, for the people who grew it/farmed it, and so on.  Gratitude has been linked to better mental health, so I’m all for slipping it in wherever possible.

HOW CAN YOU EAT MORE MINDFULLY?

I’m still trying to figure out that one, but here’s a good starter for 10.

-      Put your phone away.

-      Put your iPad away.

-      Put your book/magazine away.

-      Turn the TV off.

-      Eat away from your desk.

-      Look at your plate and take a couple of breaths before digging in (I’m not religious but perhaps pre-meal prayer is about more than worship and gratitude?)

-      Take a seat. That could be on a blanket in the park or at a table, just try not to eat whilst walking from a to b.

-      Enjoy your cinema snacks before the movie – and trailers - start! (Oh the scoops of ice cream and popcorn I’ve shovelled down in many a cinema).

-      Wait 20 minutes before going in for seconds.

-     Use your favourite crockery and cutlery… maybe even set a nice place! It makes a difference to how much you appreciate your food, trust me!

Any other tips?!  I’m all ears!