Conscious eating to help combat the effects of stress
This isn’t a post to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be eating. It’s well known what foods are good for us, and which aren’t. It’s also known that the quality of the foods we eat is important.
It is less well known, however, that the attention that we give to the act of eating itself, deeply affects both our physical and mental health.
So this isn’t to say WHAT we should eat, rather HOW we should eat.
And really, I dislike the word “should”, so here are some ideas to consider. As we choose to incorporate them, they will help us eat more consciously, avoid adding more stress to our bodies and minds, and gain the most from the foods that we are eating.
So how does stress affect eating?
We’ve all heard of “stress-eating”; we’ve all done it! Yet eating while under stress negatively impacts our digestion creating a pattern of stress for the remainder of the day.
And if there’s something that none of us need any more of, it is stress!
Stress is so harmful to our physical bodies; in fact, researchers are finding out that many diseases are linked to stress! So the last thing we want to do is create more stress for ourselves as we are eating.
The tips below will help you eat more consciously and help to avoid piling on the stress in our bodies and minds.
10 Tips for Conscious Eating to Avoid Stress
1. Hydrate before and after meals, less during meals: Always keep a glass of water nearby you as you’re working, or carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. Aim to drink liquids between twenty minutes and one hour before eating and drink less during your actual meal.
Drinking liquids during meals dilutes digestive enzymes and the stomach’s hydrochloric acid, thus impairing digestion. And we want to make it as easy on our bodies as possible to digest our foods so we can all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients as we can from the food we eat!
2. Get involved with your food: Select it, shop for it, chop it, smell it, cook it, and eat it with joy! Eating shouldn’t just be a task to check off each day, but an opportunity to slow down and nourish our bodies. Getting more involved with your food and the meals that you prepare will greatly aid your digestion and immune function.
Also, learn to eat more seasonally and locally. Emphasize lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Come visit our farm and garden and know where your food comes from!
3. Cook with love and gratitude: Cook for yourself and others with love. It may sound corny, but love truly is a special ingredient. As you are preparing meals, be grateful to be doing so! Be grateful to have food to eat!! Again, it’s not just a task to hurriedly be accomplished but the opportunity to feed and nourish the amazing body and mind with which you have been blessed!
Before eating, say a prayer blessing the food and expressing gratitude for it. Sentiments of gratitude alone can boost the immune system!
4. Engage the senses: Take time to look at the food and appreciate its shapes, color’s and textures. Smell your food, and enjoy its aromas.
5. Savor the first bite especially: Let your first bite rest in your mouth, and see if you can detect what flavors are present. And throughout the meal, stop momentarily to truly taste the flavors that are in your mouth. So often we eat so quickly that we literally don’t taste our food. Yet eating is an experience to be enjoyed, so savor it!
6. Chew well: Chew slowly and thoroughly. Notice the impulse to swallow prematurely, and resist it. Try chewing your food as many as thirty times, to the point where it is liquefied. The more thoroughly you chew, the better your digestion will be.
7. Slow down: Take breaks between bites and tune in to when you are starting to feel full. This will help avoid overeating and overtaxing your digestive system. It is best to finish eating when you still feel slightly hungry, or when your stomach feels three-quarters full. There’s no need to overindulge. You can always eat again later if you get hungry!
8. Focus and observe: It’s easy to be thinking about doing the next thing while sitting down to eat, but resist the urge to make meal times a planning or work session. Focus on eating and nourishing yourself and pickup your day where you left off as soon as you are finished with your meal.
Whenever you feel your mind wandering, bring it back to what you are doing: lifting the fork, chewing, swallowing, and putting the fork back down, etc. You’ll notice that you end up eating less and enjoying what you’re eating more when you slow down and notice what you are doing
9. Sit back and relax for a moment: Take a quick minute before getting up from your meal to once again feel gratitude for it and all that helped provide it, as well to be thankful for your body and all that it enables you to do and be each day. This moment, although quick, will help settle your mind and create calm digestion, setting the tone for the remaining hours of the day following your meals.
10. Notice the effects: Be sure to notice how practicing these steps helps you digest your meals; notice whether this practice has any positive effects on your body, your mind, or your life in general. If so, make them habits!