I cannot overstate how important our relationship with food is… 

It is the fuel from which we can run long distances, climb to magnificent heights, create extraordinary art, listen to great music, hold our loved ones close, and carry our little ones to bed at night. And the sharing of meals has always been an integral part of the human experience; from how we express ourselves, to celebrations and first dates. How and what we eat is rooted in the very foundation of our relationships and how we share our lives together.

Despite the importance of the role that food plays in our lives, we have adopted harmful cultural expectations and societal norms that encourage mindless overeating, unhealthy body image, decreased mental health, and weight gain.

Mindfulness meditation is a broad lifestyle that has been practiced with success in Eastern civilizations dating back thousands of years. Through mindful eating you can learn to eat every single bite with purpose and presence of mind. eliminate diets, acknowledge hunger, and allow yourself the joy and satisfaction of a delicious meal. Research has shown that a mindful approach to mealtimes can have lasting impact on your overall health and happiness.

So as we sit down to enjoy food with loved ones this Holiday season, here are 5 mindfulness techniques to keep in mind…

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1. Slow Down!

Did you know it can take up to 20 minutes for your stomach to send its satiation signal to the brain? This disconnect between the release of your stomach’s satiety hormones and your brain’s satiation response to ‘stop eating’  is what can lead to overeating – by the time your brain tells you that you are full, you have already afforded yourself ‘just one more…’. Overeating can lead to increased weight gain and disrupt the hormones associated with hunger regulation, worsen gastrointestinal upset, and increase the risk of disease.

 Slow down! It’s not a race… Set your fork down between bites, sit down when you eat, and chew your food 25 times before you swallow… No seriously… You should chew your food until it is the consistency of applesauce! Not only does this allow for your stomach to catch up with your brain – preventing you from overeating – but chewing your food properly is the first step in preparing your body to easily process and digest your food and increase nutrient absorption. 

2. Get in tune with your bodies’ natural hunger cues

As a society, we rarely eat because our body is telling us that it is hungry, but because we come home at a certain time, we’re out with friends, or attending a family gathering. Listen to your body… Is your stomach grumbling? Do you feel fatigued? Lightheaded? These are all indications that your body needs fuel. Learn to discern these hunger cues from societal norms and emotional triggers like stress, anxiety, and depression.

3. Practice eating…. Only eating…

In the age of streaming services like Netflix, I, like many others, have become way too comfortable eating in front of the television. However, it becomes hard to listen to our body’s natural hunger cues when we are distracted.

Obviously it’s not realistic to eat undistracted at every meal, but make time for 1-2 meals per week and practice eating… only eating. Avoid distractions such as TV, music, or looking at your phone. Instead, tune in to what your body is telling you about how the food tastes, its texture, aroma, and how it makes you feel.

4. Create a Space that Inspires Healthy Eating and Purposeful Gatherings

Cultivating a space that not only encourages healthy choices, but represents the heart of your home – a place where loved ones come together to share purposeful meals – is an important step in your mindfulness journey.

Consider what you are bringing into your kitchen and where you will put it. What kinds of food are in sight? Are healthy foods immediately accessible? Incorporate lush green plants and delicious homegrown herbs. Add shareable dishes to your recipe book. Eat nutritious meals with others often – it’s good for the soul!

A kitchen that is mindfully cultivated, organized, and cared for will bring you peace of mind come breakfast, lunch, or dinner…

5. Consider Where Your Food Came From

The sharing of meals, from the farm where it was grown, to your kitchen where it is lovingly prepared, has always been a part of the human story. Yet, as our society has evolved, we have grown quite distant from food and its source. There is little time to consider all of the individuals who play a role in making every single meal possible. Being mindful about where your food comes from will give you a greater sense of gratitude and interconnectedness, and increase your awareness of the greater impacts of food production on the planet. When you are at the grocery store, look for products that are ethically and sustainably sourced. When you can, visit your local farm stand. Attending your town’s local farmers market can broaden your awareness of all of the yummy options available in your community and help you to make more healthful decisions – both for your body and for your environment.

As someone who has struggled, from a very young age, with distorted body image and weight regulation, mindful eating has had a tremendous impact on my relationship with food. When we bring purpose to the table, we can begin to shift our mindset, discard harmful ideologies, and rediscover the joy of a delicious, lovingly prepared meal! We’d love to hear from you, drop a comment and share how you’ll be bringing purpose to your table this holiday season. 

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