How many of us work 40+ hours a week, have long commutes to work, fill our weekends with housework, yard work, bringing the kids every place on earth and have time to sit down and eat and enjoy meals? Hm, that's a lot of stuff to balance and I bet one of those things start to go to the wayside. However, when we start to take on more responsibilities and commitments, too often I see people lose track of their own health and start to put themselves last. This is most true when it comes to eating. It's too easy to either skip meals throughout the day or to just grab that quick snack from the cafe as you are on the go but are those really the best choices for your health? Probably not. This month, I want to focus on how we can make time to be more mindful of the foods we eat and become more present with our meals so we can fully enjoy and digest our foods.
1. Schedule Meal and Snack Times
This might sound crazy to add one more "to-do" on your long list but let's be real, eating takes a priority to any other item on the checklist. When we skip meals and snacks, our blood sugars will drop, energy levels will go down, brain fog will set in and we will feel like we are burning out. Eating every 2-3 hours is the best practice to start with for a healthy metabolism and to be mindful of when it is time to eat! It can be as simple as putting little alarms in your phone as a reminder.
2. Be Prepared
So now that you have planned out when you will be eating, planning what to eat is the next step. It can be easy to rush out the door without any meals or snacks for the day. However, there are quick and easy options out there, it's just knowing what to pack and making it a priority to pack it. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of healthy options that you can grab on the go as well. For example, Starbucks has their egg bites that are perfectly portioned and minimally processed so they make a great source of protein. You can even make your own at home with these simple egg bite molds. Try setting aside at least 20 minutes in the morning or the night before the quickly put something together whether it be the egg bites or it could even be as simple as a lettuce wrap with some protein, mayo or mustard and veggies with a side of almonds. Throw it all in a Ziploc baggie or meal prep container and you are good to go my friend!
This might also sound crazy but it is one of the most important pieces of mindful eating; breathing! When we are running around like crazy people trying to get from one place to the next or trying to meet a deadline, we are often in a fight or flight mode because we are under stress. We are under stress, our body puts digestion on the back burner so if we eat while we are stressed or rushing, we won't be fully digesting our food. We must make sure to allow our body to enter the "Rest and Digest" state so that way we are able to fully digest our food without getting bloated and we are able to extract more nutrients from our food when we mindfully eat it. By taking three deep breaths before we eat, we are stimulating our vagus nerve which connects our brain to our gut. When we stimulate this nerve, we are signaling that we are in a calm environment where we can readily and safely digest our food. So to be more mindful with our food and digestion, trying taking 20 seconds to allow yourself to take 3 deep breaths before each meal and snack.
4. Pick a Sense
This is one of my favorite tips for mindful eating because we never think to do this. Think of how often we are scarfing down a meal or snack like while we are driving, watching TV, on our cell phones, talking with family or friends or anything else where we are distracted. Did you even taste your food or remember what it smelled like or what the texture was like? This is the definition of mindless eating. When we don't pay any attention to our food but just eat out of habit or routine. One of the best ways to start becoming mindful with your eating is to pick out and recognize a sense that the food is giving you. This could be the vibrant orange color of the roasted sweet potato or the smooth and silky texture of yogurt or the mouth watering smell of steak on the grill. Whatever sense you enjoy most, bathe in it for a minute or two. Really look at your food before you eat it and admire the color, consistency and smell of it all and picture how that food is being used to fuel your body. We don't just eat because we enjoy it, we eat because our body needs nourishment from real, wholesome foods that have been cooked with care.
5. Turn off and avoid ALL distractions
This tips follows number 4 pretty well. In order for us to become mindful and present with our food, we must turn off and avoid all distractions that can take away from our meal such as our cell phones, TV, driving and other multi-tasking activities while eating. When we are distracted at meal times, we won't enjoy our meal as much and we may end up unsatisfied or still hungry or bloated and just not getting the most out of our meal. So to really be mindful and present when we eat, make sure to have the main focus of that meal be on the food and not the last minute paper that's due at work while you stuff your face. One of the biggest culprits is driving while eating or drinking that smoothie on the way to work. We have to give 100% of our attention to driving so we aren't really present with our morning smoothie and can't enjoy it to its full potential. Make sure to give yourself 5-10 spare minutes in the morning just to focus on you and your food.
I hope these tips on mindful eating will give you the jump start you need to start being more present and mindful with all meals and snacks. I know it's easier said than done but changing and forming a habit takes time! Start by incorporating one of these tips and you'll be amazed at how much more you'll be able to get from your meals and snacks and how much better you will feel physically and mentally! Let me know if any of these tips have really worked for you or if you have other advice that your practice for mindful eating.