How A Mindful Mealtime Practice Can Promote Better Health

Mindfulness as defined by the dictionary is “The quality or state mind of being conscious or aware of something”

Some of you might think of awareness as slowing down so you don’t hit the car that’s in front of you, taking notice of the traffic up ahead, or being aware of the events you’re expected to attend in your calendar.

Not many of us think of mindfulness from the perspective of relaxation, slowing it down, taking in life or realizing just how fast we all move throughout the day.

We, as a society, have become so consumed with all the doing that we forget how much the doing prevents us actually being who want to be and how we want to live.

We get so caught up in life’s expectations and commitments that we forget to appreciate what’s in front of us.

 Take mealtime for example.

 

Absent Mindful Meal Time Practices

How many of us actually take our time eating our food?

I actually had one client recently tell me she thought of eating lunch as a chore. She worked in a fast-paced, sales oriented job in a metropolitan area where you were expected to achieve a high volume of sales each day.

She confessed to eating lunch everyday at her computer while making deadlines, closing deals and constantly checking email.

Hey, I know I’m guilty of it too!

But the reality is, when we think and feel we are expected to always achieve, we never stop to relax. While most people will argue with me that they are relaxed, their bodies actually sense otherwise.

We sense the pressure of meeting the deadline and eagerly responding to an email that doesn’t actually need to be responded to that second.

We inhale our food. Take a few bites, maybe, before a big gulp of hardly chewed food. We forget to even breathe. And before we know it, fiver minutes later our meal is gone. We hardly remember what it even tasted like and how it could have possibly been eaten that quickly or maybe we don’t realize at all.

We are uncomfortably and aggressively full and oh so tired, but we don’t associate it with the meal we just ate. We just think it’s a result of it being so late in the day.

But deadlines are deadlines and this email has got to go out, so you brew up another batch of coffee and continue on your day brow furrowed, shoulders shrugged, eyes squinted, fight or flight mode turned up to MAX.

What we don’t realize is our body is extremely intelligent. It will do everything it can to protect us.

It senses stress. It senses danger. As a result, the Autonomic Nervous System slips into the Sympathetic Mode aka Fight or Flight Mode.

When the body senses danger, it kicks into high gear.

 

What Happens In Fight Or Flight Mode?

The body senses a perceived threat.

·       Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released

·       Heart rate increases

·       Blood pressure increases

·       Pupils dilate (vision may narrow to help you focus on the “predator” at hand)

·       Blood flow to organs is cut off

·       Hearing may become heightened

·       Might begin to sweat

·       Digestion ceases

·       Body receives a burst of energy and strength

Do you feel tired, bloating, and uncomfortable after your meals? It's no wonder - your body hasn't actually digested your food yet. This series of events has prevented food from initiating digestion, so now your system is completely overloaded with the meal you just ate. 

So what do you to promote a more relaxed state that actually initiates digestion, but also allows your body to fall out of Fight of Flight Mode and into a Rest and Digest State of Being? 

My Top Recommendations To Improve Mealtime Practices

 

1.    Leave your desk. Put all assignments away – this means physically and mentally

 

2.    Allow yourself time to smell the food you’re eating

 

3.    Savor the smells. Enjoy them.

 

4.    Take some deep breaths. Be Thankful for your food

  • Allow your body to slip into a nice blissful Rest & Digest State

  • This is the other mode of the Autonomic Nervous System that allows your body to relax and digest your food)

 

5.    Practice putting your fork down between each bite

 

6.    If you’re someone who gets shaky or hangry when meals are skipped, Don't Skip Meals

  • This is a result of your blood sugar dropping. 
  • Your blood sugar dropping will automatically cause our body’s to slip into Fight or Flight Mode leaving it very difficult to slow down and relax.

 

7.    Most importantly, be patient with yourself.

This takes practice.

Remember the first step is to acknowledge how quickly you are eating. This will help bring awareness to the body and allow you to practice being more mindful.

 

The Result Of Absent Meal Time Practices and Much More

Mealtime practices are just a small example of a lost tradition that we have completely disconnected from.

I am using this example because it is extremely common among many clients I work with, but you might find this reoccurring theme in many other aspects of your life.

On a scale of 1-10, how relaxed to you allow yourself to feel throughout the day?

Do you always feel stressed, anxious, frustrated or on edge?

These are emotions that will continue to result in a stress induced response, which not only impairs digestion and the ability for your body to effectively break down food, but also results in increased aging, greater risk of disease like Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease and a host of Autoimmune Conditions.

For the remainder of the week and throughout these next few months, I challenge you to look at all areas of your life and see where you are actually truly practicing mindfulness.

Have you actively chosen to slow it down and center into how you are currently feeling, how you want to feel, and who you want to be?

As I have come across some of my own health challenges, it has really forced me to take a deeper look at where I can be more conscious, more aware, and more myself.

I hope you take these recommendations into consideration during your mealtime practice. It’s just one of the many areas of our lives where routine becomes all too familiar, all too quick, and a result our health suffers.

If you might need help with your mealtime practice or any other area of your life, I have the tools and accountability to support you.  

Set up a Free 30-Min Discovery Call today to learn more!

 

In Abundant Health,

Ali