Mindful Eating is about how and why we eat, NOT what we eat.
At The Nurtured Mind we run a half-day workshop that focuses on everything to do with eating mindfully. During the class we delve into all the ways we can finally break free of “food rules” and thereby developing a better relationship with the food we consume.
Mindful eating is basically the opposite of mindLESS eating. Put simply, this practice requires people to pay attention to their food while they’re eating it. Participants are encouraged to pause and really take in the taste, smell, sight, touch and sound of whatever it is they choose to consume. This is all pretty straight forward stuff, and lots of people liken this experience to being told to chew their food thirty times before swallowing it when they where a child.
However, what most people are not aware of is that the bodies digestive process (metabolism) actually begins in the mind, not in the mouth as they have been lead to believe. To get a better understanding of this concept it helps to have a very basic understanding of biochemistry.
Have you ever looked in the mirror, liked what you saw, and suddenly felt your mood elevate and your energy perk up? That’s awareness sparking the chemistry of metabolism. Or have you ever noticed when being watched that you seem to perform and express yourself with greater energy and focus? That’s the awareness of others impacting your biochemistry.
Awareness is presence. It’s our ability to be awake to what is. It’s our capacity to experience what life is doing in this moment. And when we bring awareness to our eating experience, it’s a wondrous metabolic force.
The power of awareness to catalyze nutrient assimilation, digestion, and calorie-burning ability is best exemplified in something scientists call the cephalic phase digestive response – CPDR. Cephalic means “of the head.” CPDR is simply a fancy term for the pleasure, taste, aroma, satisfaction, and the visual stimulation of a meal. In other words, it’s the “head phase” of digestion. What’s amazing is that researchers have estimated that as much as 30 to 40 % of the total digestive response to any meal is due to CPDR—our full awareness of what we’re eating.
Can you recall a time when you saw your favourite food and your mouth started watering or your stomach began churning? That’s the cephalic phase digestive response. Digestion quite literally begins in the head. A hearty awareness of our meal initiates the secretion of saliva, gastric acid and gut enzymes that enhance digestion. In addition, it causes blood to rush to the digestive organs, the stomach and intestines to rhythmically contract, and electrolyte concentrations throughout the digestive tract to shift in preparation for incoming food. Simply put: awareness IS metabolism
So let’s do the math. If scientists say that 30 to 40% of our total digestive response to any meal is due to CPDR, and if we choose not to be aware of our meal – that is, if we “fall asleep at the plate” and fail to register any sense of taste, smell, satisfaction, or visual interest – then we’re metabolizing our meal at only 60 to 70% efficiency.
Lack of attention translates into decreased blood flow to the digestive organs, which means less oxygenation and hence a weakened metabolic force. With less enzymatic output in the gut we become susceptible to digestive upset, bowel disorders, lowered immunity, and fatigue… and yes, weight gain. Can you see why “sleepwalking” through a meal is an ill-informed nutritional choice?
So if viewing a film or listening to several people at once can depreciate your metabolic bank account, what do you think happens when you eat and watch TV? Or when you eat while driving? Or when you eat while working at your desk? Metabolizing a meal is like absorbing a conversation. If you were talking with a friend and she didn’t pay any attention, you’d walk away feeling incomplete and wishing for more. The essence of your exchange would have been minimally assimilated at best. The same goes with food.
The point of all this is not to convince you to become a lone boring hermit when you eat. We are not here to give Maccas drive-thru at 2am on a Sunday morning a bad wrap! The idea is simply to remind ourselves to bring more attention to our meal no matter what we’re doing as we nourish ourselves. The goal is to eat with the kind of presence that has us celebrate the moment, the food, and ultimately the preciousness of life.
To find out more about our Mindful Eating workshop click here.