Pay attention! Eating with MindfulnessNov 06, 2022
If you missed the beginning of the series, I’ve been writing about Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old, time-tested system of health and healing.
Last week I talked about Eating to Balance your Doshas: https://www.pegmcphedran.com/blog/eating-to-balance-your-dosha
Or click on the Ayurveda tag to the right, and find all the blogs on this topic!
For followers of the principles of Ayurveda, eating is not just about what (and what not) to eat. How, when and where to eat also matter. The principle of being mindful, as much as possible, from one moment to the next applies equally to preparing and eating one’s food.
When we eat with awareness of our food, body, and sensations, we can extract the most nourishment—and enjoyment—from our meal. Eating consciously helps us to optimize our digestion and overall well-being.
Principles of mindful eating:
- Plan meals that contain all 6 of the sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes, while favouring those tastes that are balancing to your dosha.
- And prepare the food with loving intention to nourish yourself and others who will be sharing the meal with you. Remember everything is energy!
- Eat in a quiet, settled, comfortable environment, away from distractions and any disturbing situations. The Sympathetic Nervous System (a.k.a. fight or flight) is often continuously stimulated in our fast-paced world. Instead do your best to turn it off by turning on the Parasympathetic System (rest and digest!). Eating food in a distracting environment diminishes your body’s ability to digest what you have eaten. It also may lead you to overeat. So put aside your cell phone, newspaper or book. Turn off the TV and other screens. Let yourself enjoy your meals and have a full-sensory experience.
- Because Western culture is so tied to the clock and the time of day, many of us learned that we should eat our meals at specific times; however, this may mean that we are eating when we’re not hungry. Instead, listen to your body, and learn to discern its natural hunger signals.
- If you are feeling any strong or disturbing emotions, this is not the time to eat, as again, digestion will be disrupted. Instead, take a walk or do something else to nourish yourself. Once you are calm again, check in with yourself to see if you are physically hungry before eating.
- Always sit down to eat. Eating while you are driving in your car doesn’t count! When you sit down to eat, you put your attention on the act of eating rather than dividing it among other activities.
- Take a moment to be grateful for all of the human beings and elements of nature that have contributed to the meal on your plate.
- Take your time. Eat at a pace that allows you to savour your meals and lets your body know when you’ve eaten enough. Slowing down and chewing your food well allows the first stage of digestion to occur.
- Avoid ice-cold foods and beverages with meals. Our digestive systems evolved over millions of years and are designed to process foods best at body temperature. The taste buds become numb when we drink or eat ice cold food, making us less discriminating about what goes into our mouths. It also dilutes our digestive acids. Try taking small sips of warm water instead of a glass of ice-cold water.
- Fresh foods have greater nutritional value and prana (that’s energy!) than leftovers or foods that have been canned or frozen for long periods of time. So whenever you can, choose freshly prepared meals made with healthy ingredients.
- In addition, be aware of where your food came from and how it was treated before it got to your plate. Minimize food that has been treated with chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics, and avoid eating animals that were not ethically treated. This is all part of mindful eating.
- Wait until one meal is fully digested before eating the next. It takes approximately six hours for food to be digested. Pay attention to The Appetite Scale: Think of your appetite as a fuel gauge with a scale of 1−10, where 1 means that you are famished, 2−3 means that you are hungry, 4−6 means that you are satisfied or comfortable, 7−9 means that you are uncomfortably full, and 10 is a totally stuffed state. Don’t begin a new meal until your body reaches a level of 2 to 3 on the appetite gauge and stop eating when you reach a level of 6 to 7. This requires being sensitive to your body. If you have a feeling of lightness and no longer taste or feel the effects of your last meal, the chances are you are genuinely hungry.
- Leave one third of your stomach empty to aid digestion. If you’ve ever stuffed your washing machine so tightly with clothes that it had trouble doing its job, you know what your stomach feels like when you overeat. The stomach liquefies the food through a churning action that requires space to function.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes after finishing your meal. Focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and then take a short walk to aid in your digestion.
So set yourself up for mindful eating success!
Allow enough time each day to prep and eat your meals.
Eat slowly and with appreciation for the food available to you.
And practice eating only to about 80% full.
Above all, pay attention to your body and how it feels before, during and after you eat–and adjust your eating practices accordingly!
For more info on this and other natural health topics:
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