What if I told you that with a few simple adjustments to meals, your food can not only taste better, be gentler on your system, but also help you feel full and nourished faster? These minor changes also lead to saving money on groceries and feeling healthier. It’s true and it’s easy.
Here’s the deal. When you eat without being present, your body cannot properly digest because it feels stressed. For example, when you scarf down a breakfast taco over your laptop at work because you were running late, you’re not going to get much out of that meal.
Digestion occurs when your nervous system is in a relaxed mode, that is to say, you are operating from a Parasympathetic State. When you’re stressed or feel rushed, you are in the sympathetic state and energy is sent to the muscles to allow for fight or flight. All energy is diverted from digestion and sent to your muscles and cardiovascular system.
When you eat while stressed or rushed, food is not broken down because of a decrease in stomach acid, leading to gas, bloating, cramping and stomach pains. When in stress-mode and unable to properly digest food, it doesn’t matter if you are eating the healthiest of foods. You will still be losing out on those important nutrients because you just can’t absorb them.
There is a drastic difference between being full and being nourished because we are not what we eat, we are what we digest.
Just as is practiced in yoga and meditation, mindfulness, presence, awareness or however you call it is extremely beneficial when applied at mealtimes. You activate the parasympathetic nervous system & turn on that digestive fire when you take the time to be present with your meal.
Here are some simple tips for moving into a more relaxed state before and while eating, or as I like to call it, Mealtime Mindfulness:
*CREATE THE SPACE
-Turn off the television. Put away phones and computers.
-Clear the table of bills, homework, unnecessary clutter or distractions.
-Use your fancy/fun dishware. If it’s for special occasions, you did wake up this morning and that is always cause for celebration!
*SET YOUR INTENTION
-Sit down, take 3 deep breaths. Long deep breathing is a quick way to turn on your relaxation response.
-Ask yourself, what do you want from this meal? How do you want to be nourished? Set the intention of what you want to take in.
-Give gratitude or say a prayer.
-Chew: when you chew your food properly, your body releases digestive enzymes in the stomach that help to break down food.
-Do not multitask if at all possible
-Eat with your hands. Yep, eat with your hands. It’s much harder to type while your hands are holding food. Touch is a powerful sensory tool and when we eat our hands, the brain signals our stomach that we are about to eat, we relax & assimilate more nutrients from our food.
-Schedule meals with friends and family to give everyone time to adjust any scheduling conflicts. Aim for having a shared meal at least twice a week.
-Prepare food together if possible. Potlucks are great and family-style meals (passing food to each other) are a powerful way to give and feel nourished
-Attend a hands-on cooking class to learn to prepare delicious and nutritious meals, plus make new friends!