6.16.2014

Mindful Eating Challenge complete! Next steps...

We've completed our 14-day Mindful Eating Challenge!

You can check out the details on the Mindful Eating Challenge here to learn why we did this and what it means. Read the update halfway through here.

For the past two weeks, my wife and I have paid attention to where, when, and how we eat our food. No standing at the kitchen counter eating a snack, no hurrying through a meal while watching videos on the computer, and no eating breakfast in the car on the way to work. We'd gotten into a busy routine where finding time and a peaceful place to eat was hard, so we needed this reset to get out of bad habits and focus on our food!

The challenge was based on the premise that when we take the time to rest, sit still, and savor our food, not only do we enjoy it more and likely eat the right amount for our hunger signals, we also digest it better and may absorb more nutrients and receive more benefit.

A little nervous system background


Our digestive organs and processes are regulated by the autonomic nervous system, which functions involuntarily and reflexively. The autonomic nervous system also controls other peripheral nervous system functions like heart rate and blood pressure. While these processes happen automatically, we can affect things like heart rate by consciously breathing and resting; we can affect hormone regulation by how we eat, sleep, move, and supplement; and we can affect our digestive health by intentional physical and mental changes as well.

The autonomic nervous system is divided into three parts: the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and the enteric nervous system. Digestion is regulated by the parasympathetic nervous system--when our bodies are in a parasympathetic state. (Read more about this nervous system and how we can choose to eat in that state in the original Mindful Eating Challenge post here.)

Eating mindfully, always, is the goal

While the two-week challenge was a helpful tool for us, we hope to continue being mindful of our food whenever possible. So many benefits - improved digestion, decreasing stress in general, listening to hunger signals/regulating food intake, practicing gratitude for our food and whoever cooked it... great practice in general.

Dinner I made once during our Mindful Eating Challenge - eaten before heading out to a social event, but felt good to sit and eat together at the table (Source: My IG)


If you want to try eating more mindfully at home, try these four beginning steps:
  1. Prepare food ahead of time. We like to cook several things on Sunday evenings so we have some leftovers started for the week's lunches. Using the slow cooker during the week is also a great way to ensure you'll have food ready when you need it.
  2. Set some strict rules for where and when you eat. You can't always force yourself into a parasympathetic state consciously, but you can decide not to eat standing up or while multi-tasking for the next two weeks. After trying it for a few days, it won't feel forced anymore. This simple change of not eating while standing in the kitchen, writing emails, scrolling through Twitter on the phone, or driving to work will make a huge difference.
  3. Take a deep breath before each meal. This can be a shortened version of the Raisin Meditation; a prayer to yourself, your food, your cook, or a higher power; or a yogic breathing exercise--whatever works for you.
  4. Try a Raisin Meditation to practice new sensory experiences and become more comfortable with these elements of eating.
These tips were important for helping us feel comfortable focusing on our food during the challenge, and will continue to be helpful as we (hopefully) continue eating more mindfully. There's no reason we can't take a deep breath together before we eat dinner in the evening, or refuse to eat breakfast in the car as a general practice.

Wishing you the best in mindful eating and health!

You can check out the details on the Mindful Eating Challenge here to learn why we did this and what it means.  Read the update halfway through here.

4 comments:

  1. Some nights I find myself standing at the kitchen counter spooning ice cream out of the carton. It's a quick feel-good destresser after I put my daughter down for a nap, but it's really not mindful in the least. Great tips for more mindful eating here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That chard looks gorgeous!

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  3. I've tried to eat more mindfully, but I've never done a formal challenge. Hmmm, maybe I should!

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  4. For those who are interested in learning to eat mindfully, the free
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    easy-to-understand, self-paced, customizable mindful eating program (includes
    Mindful Eating Coach™ app) is available at www.MindfulnessDiet.com. The program
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    ReplyDelete

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