Seven Ways to Bring Mindfulness to Eating

Most of us could use a little enlightenment when it comes to eating. The following suggestions are ways you can bring in more mindfulness to eating. Why? The most-compelling reasons are: peace of mind, better digestion, increased pleasure in eating, and improved relationship with food.

 

Breathe Deeply.

Breathing deeply 5 to 7 times before eating allows us to slow down and relax the muscles in our digestive tracts which helps aid in digestion. When we breathe deeply our brains signal to our parasympathetic nervous system to relax, further supporting the digestive process.

 

Set an Intention or Say a Prayer.

We sit down or sometimes stand up while we eat with little to no regard or care for the food we are about to ingest. It is often regarded as just fuel–a means to an end (in this case, hunger). Setting an intention or saying a prayer brings awareness to the present and directs the energy of the food and its synthesis in the body. The intention could be as simple as, “This food will fully sustain me until my next meal.” It could also be more complex and tailored to your specific needs or desires, such as:

“This meal is good medicine for my cold. It provides me with the nourishment and energy that I need to thrive.”

 

Taste the Food.

I mean really taste the food. How does it feel in your mouth? What kind of texture does it have—is it crunchy, chewy, smooth, etc.? What is the temperature of the food—cool, hot, or warm? Is it savory or sweet or perhaps both? Maybe it’s a little bitter or sour, pungent, and/or salty. Give each food the attention it craves. Embrace the diversity of the foods that grace your palate. Adopting a curiosity around food is a great practice that will serve you well.

 

Chew Your Food.

Yes, I know, perhaps I sound like your mother. But really, chew your food. Turning food into a liquefied state makes it easier on your GI tract, by requiring it to do less work. Much of our digestion starts in the mouth with enzymes like amylase. Our saliva contains these helpful enzymes but if we eat too quickly, barely chewing our food, they don’t get to do their job.

Slow Down and Keep Breathing Deeply.

Rushing creates anxiety because we are no longer operating in the present. Focusing on tasks that need to get done or other stressors takes us away from the practice and ritual of eating. Eliminate distractions such as watching TV, driving, and checking social media.

 

Don’t Drink Anything Before, During or After the Meal.

Drinking fluids, especially cold ones inhibits digestion. A good general rule to follow is to avoid drinking anything 30 minutes before and after your meal. This helps your digestive juices stay potent so they can effectively transform your food into energy. If you have difficulty swallowing or are just having a difficult time ditching the liquid at a meal, then keep a glass of lukewarm water handy (a squeeze of lemon will often make it more palatable) and take small sips.

 

Be Grateful.

Express gratitude for the nourishment of the food. True gratitude begets true contentment, true happiness, and better digestion.

 

“If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

 

 

Empowerment and Disordered Eating

In the United States, many of us struggle with body image in some form or another. We are constantly inundated with media messages and images on how we should look and what we should or should not eat. People of all backgrounds, shapes, and sizes may experience inward and outward criticism in regard to physical size. This type of exposure may lead to many unwanted health consequences including but not limited to: unhealthy body image, lowered self-esteem, unnecessary stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions, eating disorders, and disordered eating behaviors. The only way to avoid messages from the media is to live off the grid in the middle of nowhere. Most of us like being in community and don’t want to trade in our creature comforts just in order to avoid the media. So, how do we turn away from or turn off media messages so we are no longer running around with bulls’ eyes on our backs, subjected to media influence?

 

Sure, you can unplug from social media and stop reading magazines, but the advertising and marketing messages are still ubiquitous in everyday living. By identifying what the societal devices are, we can begin to unravel the binding forces that keep us wrapped up in these ideas that we are not good enough and we must keep striving for something outside of ourselves—which is entirely untrue.

Helpful Realizations: 1. These media messages exist for companies to make money. 2. These companies want you to buy their products. 3. You have been identified as the target audience for millions of products and services. 4. Marketing and advertising companies have millions of dollars wrapped up into research that focuses on the psychology of consumerism. 5. Marketing and advertising companies appeal to different emotions to sell you products and services. Most likely, you have felt shame, guilt, lust, and/or pleasure while looking at an advertisement designed to sell you something.

 

One of the negative outcomes from marketing campaigns is disordered eating. Disordered eating is a relatively new term that refers to abnormal eating behaviors but is not characterized as an eating disorder as defined by the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Some of these behaviors may manifest as1:

  • chronic restrictive eating
  • chronic yo-yo dieting
  • preoccupation with food, body, and exercise that has a detrimental effect on emotional state
  • eating compulsively
  • emotional eating
  • feelings of guilt and shame around eating and exercise (or lack of)
  • extremely rigid ideas around food and exercise
  • night eating
  • difficulty recognizing and/or adhering to hunger cues

 

Now that you have a better idea of the negative ways big media’s influence can affect you, let’s explore some helpful tools that may protect you from its influence (and to also avoid or reduce disordered eating patterns).

 

  1. Observe mindful eating techniques. This can be very simple as Dr. Susan Albers o
    utlines in 5 S’s of Mindful Eating2.

 

  1. Sit down while eating. Give yourself the attention you deserve by taking the time to focus on nourishing your body.
  2. Slowly This allows you to tune in to your body’s signaling cues.
  3. Savor the flavor and all the unique qualities of the food. Embrace the pleasure in eating.
  4. Simplify. Give yourself a break by making it easier to make healthy food choices. For instance, keep a small bag of nuts and/or seeds in your car and office. Instead of reaching for that candy bar, grabbing fast food etc., you have another choice available at your fingertips.
  5. Smile. This step can help you to express gratitude which may help ease stress and anxiety and also improve digestion. This also allows you a moment to tune into your level of fullness.

 

  1. Engage in intuitive eating. In Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole outlines the ways we can eat intuitively3.
  •  Reject the diet mentality.
  • Honor your hunger.
  • Make peace with food.
  • Challenge the food police.
  • Feel your fullness.
  • Discover the satisfaction factor.
  • Cope with your emotions without using food.
  • Respect your body.
  • Exercise—feel the difference.
  • Honor your health—gentle nutrition.
  1. Take the HAES approach. HAES stands for Health at Every Size. This is a movement started by Linda Bacon which focuses on a non-diet approach to eating. It encourages the individual to practice self-compassionate care in place of dieting. It also challenges social norms and accepted scientific claims that say obesity is a problem and must be “battled”4.

 

  1. Other principles to adopt:

 

  1. Self-compassion—Make space for all the feelings, all the ups and downs, all the mistakes, and all the growing pains. Allow whatever you’re feeling to be okay. You are beautiful, after all, there is only one you.
  2. Self-acceptance—Embrace your own uniqueness. Allow you to be you, no matter what. Meet yourself wherever you are. Take the pressure off from trying to be something you’re not and be who you are. We are all perfectly imperfect.
  3. Functional Eating—In order to tip the scales back to more functional eating, you must understand why you eat the way you do. By paying attention to your own unique body’s cues, you can start to understand the language of your own body. Your body is constantly communicating with you. Allowing your body to be heard and listened to can help improve your body-mind relationship.
  4. Reclaim Pleasure in Eating—It is your birth right to enjoy eating. Own it and embody the pleasure.
  5. Abandon Guilt and Shame Around Eating—You owe nothing to no one. Guilt and shame are useless and do not serve you or your goals around freedom of eating.
  6. Explore Your Relationship with Food—Keep a journal about food. Record your stories and feelings around food.
  7. Enjoy the Moment—Be here now. When you live in the future or in the past, you rob yourself from the present moment. And now is all you have. Capture the moment in your being.
  8. Feelings Around Food—Pay attention to your feelings around food. These feelings serve as powerful messengers that inform your relationship with food.
  9. Keep a Curious Mind—Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take nothing as fact. Allow yourself to change and transform—whatever that looks like for you.
  10. Behold the Process—You may stand tall, you may fall, you may crouch down and look around. Success is never linear, although you may currently believe it is—challenge that belief. Honor the journey. The mere act of engaging in the process is in itself a success. Always try to view it as such.

“The journey of a thousand miles, begins with one small step.”  ~Lao Tzu

I invite you to take that first step AND I encourage you to keep going.

 

To health with it,

Sara Sandhya Foster

 

References:

  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org. Accessed Dec 5, 2017.
  2. Susan Albers, PsyD. Eating Mindfully. http://www.eatingmindfully.com, Accessed Dec 6, 2017.
  3. Evelyn Tribole. Intuitive Eating. http://www.intuitiveeating.org. Accessed Dec 6, 2017.
  4. Linda Bacon, PhD. http://www.lindabacon.org. Accessed Dec 5, 2017.

What supplements should I take to improve my health?

This is a question I hear often. Daily stressors, lack of exercise, dehydration, poor diet, insufficient sleep, allergies and many other things affect how we feel. While it’d be wonderful to have a relaxing life eating a nutrient-rich diet in a stress-free utopia, we have to do the best we can with what we have available. To help ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs and craves, I’ve compiled a list that will help improve how you feel and your overall quality of life.

The 7 best supplements to take on a daily basis:

1. Multivitamin/Mineral Supplement…Most of us are marginally deficient in one thing or another but unsure of what. A multivitamin generally fills in the gaps and in low enough of a dose that it eliminates concern for toxicity. I recommend taking a whole food-based formula, they are easier to digest and usually don’t cause stomach upset like some of the others. You can also take them between meals enhancing the convenience factor.

2. Vitamin D…Most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. What this means is that we simply aren’t getting ample sunlight that our body needs to produce vitamin D. It is essential for proper immune functioning. I recommend asking your doctor to test your vitamin D levels. If you are deficient, eliminate involuntary ‘down-time’ by taking vitamin D.

3. Probiotics…With the growing number of food allergies, the overuse of antibiotics and the multitude of toxins in our food and environment, our guts need our help. The friendly bacteria in probiotic supplements help our digestive systems fight infection and keep bowel issues from developing or getting worse. Yes, I said bowel issues. I recommend opting for a probiotic formula that has upwards of 5 billion CFUs. Your gut will thank you, I promise.

4. Vitamins A, C & E…With the amount of free radicals, stress and toxins our bodies experience daily, protecting our bodies on a cellular level is key. These immune-enhancing antioxidants help to maintain cellular health and aid in repair. Plus they’ve been known to slow the aging process and who doesn’t want that?

5. Vitamin B Complex…This will help boost your energy and aid your body in adapting to stress. Plus it doesn’t hurt to pop a couple of vitamin B’s after a night of imbibing your favorite cocktail.

6. Fish Oil…Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory that is beneficial for optimal brain functioning and cardiovascular health. You don’t want to go cheap on this one – I suggest getting a high quality bottle in liquid form. And yes, it tastes just like you think it does with a little lemony flavor added. I recommend taking it at the beginning of a meal. And for the herbivores out there flaxseed oil is a livable substitute.

7. Greens Powder…Our bodies can become quite acidic which sets the perfect stage for disease to come in and set up shop. Chlorophyll, the substance you remember from studying photosynthesis in sixth grade, is known for its blood-building and detoxifying properties. Regularly eating leafy greens which are abundant in chlorophyll, helps restore balance to our pH by alkalinizing our bodies. When your schedule doesn’t allow for fresh spinach or kale every morning, a greens drink will do the job. Keep in mind this green love potion is not meant to replace your leafy greens intake; it just adds support.

Cheers to your health! Please email me with any questions at sara@fosternutrition.com.