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It’s not just about the what: The Importance of Mindful Eating

It’s not just about WHAT you eat, HOW you eat also plays a part in healthy eating.  

WHAT IS MINDFUL EATING?

What would happen if you went straight into a sporting competition without warming up, stretching your muscles, preparing your body for the task it is about to perform? – Injury, inflammation, underperformance? Similarly if you gobble down large amounts of food without a second thought the same can happen to your digestive system.

‘Mindful eating’ has become another one of those ‘in’ terms used in relation to dieting. The Mayr Method diet is one diet that incorporates mindful eating as a fundamental part of its structure. 

I like to think of mindful eating as respecting and supporting the body through the ritual of eating.

Giving your body the time and preparation it needs to perform one of its most important processes – the digestion and absorption of nutrients that will go on to influence every part of your body.

EATING WHEN STRESSED 

This one is a recipe for disaster. When you are stressed your body goes into fight or flight response releasing cortisol which tells your body you need quick fuel aka simple carbohydrates. This leaves you craving unhealthy foods like refined carbohydrates and processed sugars. 

This stress response also sends energy and blood flow to your extremities (arms and legs) getting you ready to run or fight leaving your internal organs (digestive system) in a somewhat sleep mode. Try putting food in a gastrointestinal system that’s in sleep mode and you’ll find yourself with symptoms of bloating, indigestion and cramps due to the food not being broken down and passed through efficiently. 

Long periods of stress can also reduce your stomach’s hydrochloric acid which is important for proper digestion of food and could very well be the reason you are all of a sudden experiencing heartburn or reflux.

CHEWING YOUR FOOD

Believe it or not your mouth is part of your digestive system. 

As we chew, an enzyme called Amylase is released to start the breakdown of  food along with the chewing itself.

If you don’t chew your food property it leaves more work for our stomach and intestines to do. Food can end up sitting in your stomach for longer as it tries to diest the larger pieces of food which can leave you with indigestion, heartburn, reflux and bloating… yuck!

Chewing your food for a long enough time is also important in weight management. If we gobble down our food it doesn’t give our satiety sensors (what makes you feel full) enough time to send out those ‘full’ feelings which usually means you end up eating more than you need without listening to your body.

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PORTION SIZES 

Now I am a big believer in if it’s healthy nutritious food then our bodies know when to stop, however, sometimes this is not the case. For most people I would not be recommending that you weigh and measure every portion of food as this adds stress and takes away from the enjoyment of nourishing our bodies. It is important however to have an understanding of what portion sizes should look like as over portioning can contribute to weight gain, indigestion, blood sugar imbalances, delayed satiety and for those penny savers out there, it costs more.

One way you can get a better idea of portion sizes is by associating objects with appropriate portion sizes. For example, 1 serving of vegetables (1 cup) would be the same as a baseball and a serve of carbohydrates (½ cup) would be the same as a hockey puck. Another general rule for animal protein is that 1 serving is the same size as the palm of your hand including the thickness.      

WHEN YOU EAT  

So we know that one of the most important roles of food is to fuel our bodies and as mentioned above it takes a lot of time and energy for our bodies to digest food, so it only makes sense that there are optimal times to eat and optimal times to rest our digestive system. We have all heard the saying ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day.’ Now while I think that every meal is important, if you would like to function at your finest, breaking that fast is pretty important. Skipping breakfast can also increase your chances of hypertension, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as messing with your blood sugar levels leaving you with unhealthy cravings. 

Just as important is when to let your digestive system rest, this allows it time to cleanse and heal and what better time to do this then when you’re resting. Making sure there is enough time between your last meal for the night and when you sleep will not only give your digestive system that well deserved break but it will also help prevent heartburn and indigestion, nightmares or night waking, sluggish feelings in the morning, bloating and poor nutrient absorption. 

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY 

Hunger cues are one way we can listen to our bodys better, mindfully eating helps us feel when we are hungry and feel when we are full. If you think you may be having issues with what you are eating, taking a mental note and keeping a symptoms and diet diary may help you get to the source of the problem. 

Our body is designed better than we know, what we sometimes see as symptoms can often be our body’s way of trying to tell us things.

Making a conscious effort to listen to our bodys can help us take action to prevent illness and facilitate optimal health.

If you give your body the time and attention it deserves it will give you back quality of life for many years to come.

Take Care, Talk soon 

Nichola xo

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