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Many of us focus on what we are eating and for good reason - there is strong evidence supporting the use of a Mediterranean-style diet for the maintenance of a healthy weight and preventing the risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. However, it is also important to focus on how we eat. Mindful eating is the practice of eating with intention and purposefully maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our food.
Eating mindfully can enhance our digestion and can help prevent overeating, promoting the maintenance of a healthy body weight. The presence of mind that we maintain also allows for a beautiful opportunity to connect with our food and genuinely enjoy our meal.
Four tips for mindful eating:
1. Mindful eating starts with your grocery list: Carefully consider the nutritional value of each item in your shopping list and whether it is in line with your values and intentions around your diet. Stay in the peripheries of the grocery stores, where you will find fresh produce and other whole foods vs. the centre of the store, where the processed/packaged foods tend to be located.
2. Tune into your hunger cues: Listen to your body to get a sense of how hungry you are. Pay attention to physical sensations like a feeling of emptiness in your stomach or stomach growling. Avoid thinking about the time that you last ate or what time it is now and instead focus on the physical sensations of hunger to decide whether it is a good time to eat.
3. Take some time to intentionally pause before you sit down to eat a meal: With our hectic schedules, many of us sit down to a meal without taking the time to ensure that we are feeling calm and at peace. Before your next meal, practice belly breathing 8-10 times before eating to ground yourself in the present moment and to start your meals with a sense of relaxation. Being relaxed at mealtimes can help improve digestion.
4. Enjoy your meal with all your senses: Pay attention to the colour, texture and aroma as you are cooking and eating your meals. Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly to enjoy its flavour. Try noticing all the ingredients and seasonings in your food as you eat.