It is 6:00am and the alarm goes off. We are up, out of bed, in the shower and out the door. But what about breakfast? Not to worry, we will pop an Up&Go on the way…

For many, eating on the run or skipping meals is not an unfamiliar practice and this is no surprise. As people living in the twenty-first century, we operate in a fast-paced, 24/7 world, where we are constantly on our feet and expected to bounce from activity
to activity. However, this mindset of living and lifestyle choice could be contributing to detrimental health outcomes.

The impact of mindless eating

When we are pressured to eat quickly, we are less likely to follow body cues of hunger and satiation. These body cues are controlled by the hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which send messages to our brain regarding appetite. Long term consequences of eating too quickly include hypertension, an increased risk of being overweight, fat abnormalities and elevated blood sugar levels.

For these signals to properly register, we need to practice mindful eating and allow the message time to travel to the brain. Generally, this takes about twenty minutes, with the happy hormone, dopamine, being produced as a by-product. Eating more slowly also allows the stretch receptors in our stomach to signal to the brain that the body is becoming full. So, what does this all mean? We need to make more of a conscious effort to eat mindfully.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating involves the practice of being present in the moment and appreciating the five senses – taste, smell, sight, touch and sound. For instance, if corn chips are used as an example, one would think about its salty taste, rustic smell, triangular features, rough edges and crunch-like sound. Being more mindful, helps people to slow down and appreciate each mouthful.

Setting up a mindful environment

It is important to dedicate time throughout the day to sit down and participate in a meal. To make the experience more enjoyable, one may appreciate sharing a meal and spending quality time with friends or family. It is also important to think consciously about the meal’s specific characteristics. Is the smell causing you to salivate? Does the flavour of each bite change? Do you prefer one flavour to another? Do you like mixing the flavours? All these thoughts support mindful eating and contribute to an increased appreciation for a meal and how it makes us feel.

Ten tips for eating mindfully
  1. Chew your food at least twenty times
  2. Take smaller bites
  3. Place utensils down between mouthfuls
  4. Use cutlery with the non-dominant hand
  5. Use chopsticks
  6. Use smaller utensils or child-sized cutlery
  7. Make the meal hot and allow it to cool
  8. Make the mealtime a social occasion
  9. Avoid eating while watching the television
  10. Silence phones while eating

Mindful eating takes time to learn and is an important skill for people to actively work on. By slowing down one’s eating pattern, we will have more time to focus on the food, allowing for better digestion and long-term health outcomes.

Cover image, Shutterstock