Stress Awareness: A Guide to Mindful Eating

Did you know that mindful eating activates the part of your nervous system that reduces stress throughout your body? If you’re feeling the effects of stress in your daily life, why not try mindful eating?

Mindful eating gets you in tune with the emotions and sensations you feel when you’re eating. As a result, you’ll change your entire relationship with food, decrease your stress levels, and improve your overall health and well-being.

Discover how to practice mindful eating, beat stress, and improve overall health.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice that dates back over 2,000 years. Mindfulness occurs when your mind is fully present and aware of what you’re doing at the moment. When you’re practicing mindfulness, you’re not overwhelmed or overly reactive to what is happening around you.

You’re also in a neutral space and not trying to interpret or judge what you’re feeling in the moment. You can practice mindfulness by taking short pauses in your everyday life and tuning into yourself and your surroundings.

A good way to start is to insert mindfulness practices when you’re sitting, standing, walking, or even when you’re participating in sports.

What Is Mindful Eating?

Most of the time, eating is a rushed event. You eat quickly either in your car during the commute to work, or at your desk in front of a computer screen. As a result, you end up mindlessly shoveling food in your mouth, and not paying any attention to your hunger signals.

Mindful eating involves taking the practice of being mindful and aware of your surroundings and applying it to how you eat food. When you eat mindfully, you’ll observe the signals food sends to your body, like how it tastes and how your body feels once you consume it.

It’s important to remember that mindful eating isn’t about perfection, or always forcing yourself to eat the right types of foods. It’s not focused on calorie counting either. Instead, mindful eating is about focusing on your senses and being fully present when you shop, cook, and eat your food. 

Benefits of Mindful Eating

By paying attention to how the foods you eat affect your energy and mood, you’ll open yourself up to the many benefits of mindful eating that include:

  • Gives you the chance to examine your relationship with food
  • Improves your digestion as you eat slower
  • You open up to eating different types of food
  • You feel more of a connection to where the food you eat comes from
  • You appreciate the food you eat in a more thoughtful way

People also tend to lose weight with mindful eating. Mindful eating means you are more aware of your food choices and how food makes you feel overall. You’re also less likely to overeat or binge eat due to emotional reasons. 

Mindful Eating and Stress Reduction

It’s well known that stress ages your mind and body by causing conditions like insomnia, depression, obesity, and chronic illnesses.

Since mindful eating makes you aware of your own emotions and feelings in a calmer way, it reduces the overall stress that you’re feeling while you’re eating. It also impacts you in other positive ways as you’re able to naturally apply this mindful behavior to other areas of your life. 

Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone” and when you eat mindfully, you reduce the cortisol levels in your body. The reduction of this stress hormone also lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.

How to Eat Mindfully

Mindful eating practices take time to establish, so you’ll need to start slowly and work on them until they become a habit. You’ll need to engage all your senses before you take your first bite of food.

To help you get in touch with your senses, it’s best to follow some basic guidelines when you start out which include:

Sit Down and Relax

Before you eat, sit down, relax, and unplug. Your first step to unplugging is turning off the television and silencing your phone. You need to create a calm environment to limit any interruptions during mealtime.

Tune In

First, take the time to tune into yourself and how you’re sitting. Make sure you are sitting in a comfortable and relaxed state. Look around at the people you’re sharing a meal with and take a moment to appreciate their presence.

Next, tune into your hunger. How hungry are you feeling? Ask yourself if you’re eating because you’re actually hungry, or do you feel bored or anxious?

It’s important to understand your intentions of eating the meal you’re about to eat. Doing this will help you start to tap into the emotions that surface at mealtimes.

Observe Your Food

Take a moment to observe the food in front of you and appreciate it for what it is. Consider the food on your plate and the ingredients it took to make that food. Pause to acknowledge gratitude for the food in front of you, and for being able to sit and eat it.

Take in how the scent of your food, and how that scent makes you feel. Observe the color and shape of your food, as well as the texture.

Focus On Your Eating Experience

When you start to eat, make a conscious effort to take smaller bites. Chew your food slowly and concentrate on the flavor and texture of your food. Make a point to identify all the different ingredients you can taste as you’re eating. 

While you’re eating, take notice of how each bite satisfies you and when you start to feel full. Pay attention to how your stomach feels rather than focusing on how much is left on your plate.

Pause Between Bites

Make it a practice to pause between bites of food by putting your utensils down and stopping for a moment to take everything in. Drink small sips of water during this time before you start to eat more.

Reduce Your Stress With Mindful Eating Today

When you start practicing mindful eating, you’re taking huge steps to reduce the overall stress you’re feeling in your mind and body.  

To better establish a mindful eating program and change how you respond to the stress in your life, reach out to the highly-trained practitioners of the EVEXIAS Health Solutions network. Each provideris is trained in helping patient manage the effects of stress and taking steps to reduce the impact long term. Though stress will never go away, the right treatment plan can help you achieve optimal wellness through healthy lifestyle changes and integrative medicine therapies.

Contact us today to find a provider to help you manage the impact of stress in your life.

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