Staying mindful while we eat
How we eat is to me equally as important as what we eat. Digestion is impaired when we are in a stressed, distracted, “fight or flight” sympathetic state. When we are in a relaxed parasympathetic state, digestion can do its thing. Our entire body down to cell level depends on the digestive system to provide nutrition that it needs to function. If our digestion is not functioning optimally, even if we eat the most high-quality food, we still might not be absorbing much of the nutrition from it.
How and when we eat
When we eat on the run, in the car, while looking at our phones or computers, while we are anxious or worried about something else our digestion is not working or at least not optimally. This can open a whole new can of worms centred on general stress reduction or management. I have been trying to incorporate meditation a lot more regularly into my life to help with digestion and the other myriad of positive effects it can provide.
Chew, Chew, Chew
Chewing food thoroughly is another great way to help digestion. The mechanical breakdown of food in the mouth, mixing with enzymes is not the only way this helps, I feel chewing thoroughly is very rhythmic and helps me get in a great mindset for eating. It is also a great way to slow down over a meal, ensuring you are not just inhaling a plate full of food but actually focus, taste, chew and enjoy. Slowing down like this over a meal can also help you register when you are full and prevent overeating as it can take up to 20 minutes to register that you have eaten enough and are satiated.
A few deep belly breaths before we eat might be enough to get us to a “rest and digest” state of mind. Keeping devices away from meals is also important. When I focus on my food, what I’m eating, what it tastes like, the texture and smell I feel a lot more satisfied after eating. If I eat quickly while looking at my phone it’s easy to feel like I haven't eaten at all. This is also a great exercise to show me how easy it is to constantly reach for distractions like scrolling through social media on my phone than to actually be focused and in the present.
The last item I’ll mention that can be helpful is completing a food and mood journal for at least three days. Observe how you eat, what, how much and how you feel afterwards. This may uncover the answers to your own health questions.