Practice Mindful Eating and Meditation for Digestion and Diet

Practice Mindful Eating and Meditation for Digestion and Diet

Relaxation practices encourage healthier eating, better digestion and a more satisfying experience

It’s hard to say “no” to the unhealthy stuff.

Everywhere we turn, sugary, starchy foods are staring right at us. Sometimes, all we can do is run the other way—or indulge. But mindful eating and meditation for digestion provide a third path, one that’s free and comes without side effects (unless you count the beneficial ones).

Mindful Eating or Meditation Offer Similar Yet Different Approaches

Mindful eating and meditation are similar in many ways, and each can have a profound effect on diet and digestion. But there are differences as well.

  • Mindful Eating:  Defined by the Chopra Institute as “the simple act of paying attention and noticing and being present in whatever you’re doing,” mindfulness is an approach to life or to specific moments in life.
  • Meditation: Meditation typically refers to a more formal practice that takes place for a specific period of time, whether sitting, standing, walking or lying down.

Mindful Eating Can Change Your Relationship with Food

According to the Center for Mindful Eating, mindful eating involves “allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your inner wisdom.”

With inner wisdom comes several dietary and digestive benefits.

  • Healthier choices: eating food that truly nourishes
  • Better digestion: we’re better able to recognize when and how unhealthy food is affecting us, so we don’t continue causing harm
  • Portion control: real hunger cues determine how much we really need to eat
  • Healthy weight loss: as this study demonstrates, mindfulness can help shed pounds

Ready to get started? The next time you sit down to eat, try this short mindfulness practice first.

  1. Pause for several breaths before you dig in. 
  2. Give your full attention to what you’re about to eat, appreciating the colors, shapes and smells, and notice how you feel. 
  3. Exhale any negative emotions and dedicate your meal to enjoyment and pleasure.

If you find yourself returning to negative thoughts during or reaching for something you shouldn’t eat, repeat the process at any time during your meal.

Meditation for Digestion and Other Benefits

Meditation is a little more structured and may be less focused on food than mindful eating, but that doesn’t mean it won’t help with digestion.

As one study shows, consistent relaxation practices, including meditation, may relieve even the most frustrating ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

  • For beginners, set an alarm to go off in a short period of time, say five or ten minutes
  • Sit in a comfortable chair, focus on your breath, and follow it as it travels through your nose, down to your belly, and back up and out
  • If you get distracted, simply return to your breath without judgement

Meditation isn’t always easy, but over time you can improve focus and learn to stop using food as an emotional crutch. 

The STOP Mantra—for a More Practical Approach

When you can’t find the time or privacy to close your eyes and follow your breath, a more practical approach may be in order.

The STOP method, created by Dr. Jamie Zimmerman, M.D., formerly of CBS’s medical news team, can keep you from making unhealthy choices in the moment. Simply put, STOP is an acronym that reminds us to “Stop” and “Take three breaths” before we “Observe” and “Proceed.”

You might find that you proceed to a healthier food item, or that all you really needed was a glass of water.

February 12, 2021
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