By: Kelli Pitrone, Registered Dietitian & Vivante Health Nutrition Team Manager
Let’s not talk about the food we eat, but how we eat it. Ever heard of mindful eating? We’ll walk you through exactly how to do it. But first…why?
The Elusive Happy Medium
We know the food we put into our bodies is hugely important to our overall health, especially our digestion. Science is starting to show us it’s even bigger than that, though: the totality of our health is ultimately affected by how our digestive tract is working. Maintaining regularity and a calm intestinal tract is a life goal for many of us. It’s something that’s not so openly talked about, but we can all probably agree that we’re not in the best of moods when we’re constipated or when we’re rushing to the bathroom multiple times per day. Finding that elusive happy medium when it comes to our digestion is on the to-do list, but how do we make that happen?
Between the thousands of packaged foods at the grocery store and the hundreds of restaurant choices we see on a daily basis, healthful eating habits are harder to establish than ever.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The digestive tract is approximately 30 feet long from top to bottom, being one of the largest systems in the body. Throughout this system spans what is often referred to as our second brain, aka the enteric nervous system. This is a mesh of neurons that govern the function of the GI tract and talk back and forth with the brain.
With such a strong gut-brain connection, it’s easy to see how our gut health can affect our mental health, which ultimately affects every decision about what we put into our bodies. If we’re feeling overworked, depressed, or anxiety ridden, it can lead to dietary intake extremes that aren’t good for us. The manifestations of these issues in our eating habits can affect our digestion and bring a sense of dysbiosis to the body, mind, and spirit.
If we take the time to analyze ourselves and pay attention to the habits that we keep, we’ll often notice that many of our other life issues play a major role in our food choices. For example, when we’re unfulfilled in a relationship, we might seek fulfillment through mindlessly eating an enormous plate of French fries. When we’ve worked a 60-hour week, we might seek relief through the brief enjoyment of an indulgent dessert.
The list of emotions that translate into eating issues is endless. They all share a common solution, though: taking time to calm the mind on a daily basis.
Taking regular mental health breaks will drastically change your health for the better.
The calmer the mind, the calmer the body, the calmer the digestion.
This brings us into mindful eating. What does this even mean? Well, mindful eating is actively participating in every moment of the eating process—savoring each bite; connecting with the space, from the table where you’re seated to the look of your plate, bowl and spoon; bringing awareness to the flow of your breath; noticing how the fork or the food feels in your hand. With mindful eating you take time to analyze the texture, color, temperature, and flavor of every part of your meal. With mindful eating, you start your meal with a thought of gratitude for the food in front of you and connect with all the aspects of the food that are making a difference in your body. You think about where the food came from and how much effort, care and love were put into its cultivation. You take joy in a minimalist mindset where fulfillment comes from foods with a short list of ingredients.
Now, let’s puts mindful eating into action with a few practice scenarios. Try one of these today:
- Take a clementine and hold it in your hand. Feel the texture of the skin. Notice its vibrant color and how it smells. Slowly start to peel away the skin ,starting on the side closest to you and working your way around. Take in your surroundings; take in the smell of the peeled skin and how the clementine looks now that the skin has been removed. Separate the clementine in half, noticing the natural beauty of the fruit. Next, separate each segment, piece by piece, and set it out in front of you. Notice how the sphere transformed into mini half moons. Take one of the half moons and place it on your lips, taking in its smell. Notice how you begin to salivate. Lastly, place the segment in your mouth and chew it slowly, feeling the juice and pulp covering the whole surface of your tongue before you swallow.
- Take a piece of dark chocolate in a wrapper and place it in your hand. Notice the beauty of the wrapper and the simplicity of the shape. Slowly unwrap it, taking in the smell. Notice the shininess and depth of color of the chocolate. Place the chocolate up to your lips, appreciating in the smell. Notice your salivation. Stick your tongue out and place the chocolate right in the center. Let the chocolate sit in your mouth, and don’t do anything—no chewing. After a moment, feel the sensation as you press the chocolate to the roof of your mouth, how melty it becomes as it spreads over your tongue. Feel the intensity of the flavor as it slowly melts in your mouth. After it has fully melted on your tongue, take a swallow to bathe your mouth and throat in the richness of flavor.
Learning to slow down and enjoy every moment of the eating process can change your life in so many ways. You’ll learn a new appreciation for spaces, people, and foods. Cultivating a sense of gratitude for these small parts of life can dramatically affect overall health for the better.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. Vivante dietitians are here to answer any questions or concerns for members anytime!
About Vivante Health
Vivante Health is an innovative digital healthcare company reinventing the way chronic conditions are managed. Our mission is to fill the unmet needs of people living with chronic conditions that are invisible, neglected, or stigmatized, starting with digestive disease. Our health management ecosystem, GIThrive™, empowers people—through brilliant technology and advanced science—to spend less time worrying about their digestive condition and more time living life.