Eating healthy is not just about what you eat. How you eat, why you are eating, when you eat, and where you eat are all important in achieving optimal health.
Here are a couple tips on the hows, whys, whens, wheres and whats of mindful eating:
Eating slowly and with good intentions is how you want to eat. Taking your time at the table with plenty of chewing is a helpful tool for eating mindfully. According to traditional Chinese medicine, chewing your food 32 times, one for each tooth, will ensure maximum digestion and absorption of nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to chew your food until it is almost a liquid. Setting your fork down between each bite is another tip to help impede meal time.
The whys of eating is pretty simple. We eat for nourishment, energy, joy and pleasure. Getting the proper nourishment from food gives us energy and the vital life force we need to thrive. But food also has to taste good in order to be fully satisfied. Life is to be enjoyed, right? Looking at food as a daily pleasure is so rewarding! Go to the farmer’s market and find food that sings to you. Enjoy the pleasure of biting into your first ripe strawberry in June or a juicy tomato on the hottest day in July!
A lot of people struggle over the thought of when the best time to eat is. Eat when you are hungry. I know it sounds like common sense but many people live on auto pilot and don’t take the time to check in to see if they are actually hungry. Just as an experiment, for one day try to eat only when you are hungry. Pay attention to how you feel. How is your energy level? Is your digestion normal? You may be surprised how good it feels to allow yourself to feel physical hunger. I’m not suggesting you starve yourself. I only encourage you to be aware of the difference between physical and mental hunger.
Eat at a table! Please don’t eat in the car, while watching T.V. or reading a book. Getting distracted can cause you to overeat. Eating while you are angry or stressed can also disrupt proper digestion. So be sure you are in a relaxed environment.
Ahh, the whats. This is often a big question for people, especially since every other day there is another fad diet: high protein, low carb, vegetarian, or raw food. I have seen my clients thrive from a vegan diet, while others are so tired they need to have some animal protein. The most important part to remember is to eat organic, unprocessed whole foods, with a huge emphasis on vegetables, some fruit, healthy fats, whole grains, and legumes. If you need or desire animal protein make sure it is organic and grass-fed, that way you can get the intended nutrients from the meat. Try to make at least 70% of your plate be vegetables to ensure you are getting enough nutrients and antioxidants.
When you take in the how you are eating, why you are eating, when you are eating, and where you are eating it allows you to be more mindful in what you are eating. When you are more mindful, you tend to not only make better choices but also take more pleasure in your food. It may seem like a lot to think about, but try to take all these considerations into account or just implement one tip at a time and notice how you feel. I know you will have more appreciation for food!