Mindful Eating: a new commitment to food

Nowadays, we are always rushing into something or somewhere. When it is time to pause for having a meal, our brain keeps connected to everything around us: we constantly check our phones, we are absorbed by social media news, and stressed by work and life issues. Amidst such turbulence, how can we be aware of the compromises made in our relationship with food?

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Inverting old and bad eating habits

Cultural, economic and marketing practices affect the way we buy and use food. Labour, leisure, preferences and lifestyle changes have made us increasingly sedentary also jeopardizing our eating habits. In the hope of contradicting these paths, many new diets have emerged, offering a range of ways to lose weight and improve our health. All these new solutions are nonetheless focused on cutting and adding nutrients to our meals, forgetting an essential part of the process: our eating behaviour.

Mindful eating cuts across this boom of trendy diets to alert us that healthy eating also included rethinking our eating habits and our relationship with food. This bond with what we eat derives from the awareness taste, smell, colour and texture of food. According to the Centre for Mindful Eating, “pausing and becoming curious focuses the mind. Mindful Eating cultivates becoming grounded in the present moment’s awareness of eating.”

This complete awareness helps us to focus or thoughts and feelings in those physical sensations related to eating, and to identify the true origin of hunger – whether if it is a physical hunger or if it is a consequence of an emotional cause.

Mindful Eating has been helpful in treating many conditions, including eating disorders – like binge eating -, depression or anxiety, and addressing various erroneous food-related behaviours.

How to practise Mindful Eating

Practising Mindful Eating may not be an easy task since it usually contradicts our normal eating habits, simultaneously demanding total concentration. According to the Harvard Health Publishing, there are a few steps that can help us improve our Mindful Eating.

First, the shopping list. We should consider the health value of every item added, preventing us from impulse buying at the supermarket. A second step is discipline.  We should avoid skipping meals and thus prevent seating at the table with excessive hunger. Meals should be taken with an appetite but in appropriate portions.

The third step involves the essence of Mindful Eating. “Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.

Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to colour, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings” as advised by Harvard Health Publishing.

The following steps involve taste and chewing. It’s easier to taste food completely when our mouth isn’t full. So taking small bites and putting down utensils between bites could help. Chewing thoroughly and eating slowly are other techniques that improve our experience in tasting all the flavours that are released.

Final advice: “Devote at least five minutes to Mindful Eating before you chat with your tablemates.”

The effects of Stress

There are numerous ways stress affects our lives. Stress can prevent us to sleep and rest but it can also be the trigger for more serious diseases. Stress has become a part of our daily lives and sometimes its effects go unnoticed until they become serious.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is defined as “(…) the brain’s response to any demand. Many things can trigger this response, including change. Changes can be positive or negative, as well as real or perceived. They may be recurring, short-term, or long-term and may include things like commuting to and from school or work every day, traveling for a yearly vacation, or moving to another home.

Everyone can suffer from stress and that isn’t always a bad thing. The same institute also states that by triggering body’s responses, stress can be good for the immune system. “When you face a dangerous situation, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival. In the short term, it can even boost the immune system.The problem rises when stress is continuous, and the body is constantly producing these responses causing the body’s vital system to be always on alert and ready to protect it.

Hair loss is one of the most common stress effects in the body.

Although it is hard to link both, researchers found that continuous stress lowers our immune system, the body produces an autoimmune response that causes hair follicles to fall.

Acne is another major stress effect that usually gives a warning sign to those affected.

When pimples start to breakout after the teenage years they are usually linked to stress.

Heart attack and stroke are some of the most serious effects stress can do to people.

When people can’t disconnect from what is causing them stress, whether is a work, family or other situation the help of medical professionals is key to relieve the stress and help them to face things in a different perspective. There are effective techniques to control stress and to minimize its impact in our lives and our health. With the help of a psychologist stress can be lowered and controlled so that individuals can make better decisions and have a better life quality. Mindfulness is one of the most powerful techniques that can help control stress and boost better decision-making. If you would like to learn more about mindfulness and how it can help relieve stress read this blog post and visit our website for more information.

How can mindfulness mediation make you happier and improve your brain

Mindfulness is a technique that consists of being able to concentrate in one thing at a time, disconnect from the world around and be fully committed to meditate about a given subject. This can improve concentration levels, but can also make people less stressed, happy, and with improved memory.

The Huffington Post explains in a recent article the four different ways our lives can be improved by using mindfulness, and thus being able to live a happier life.

Mindfulness helps people to become more aware of their inner self and that is helpful for general wellbeing.

The first way that mindfulness can help is distracting our minds from negative thought loops: Mindfulness meditation is a form of rigorous training of the mind which helps us to become more familiar with the nature of the mind and more skillful in noticing when our minds are getting caught up in these unhelpful patterns of thought. When we learn to observe this, we can actually choose to disengage and move our attention in ways that support us rather than pull us down.”

The second aspect is making people feel more connected to others: “Mindfulness can deepen and enrich our relationships as we bring a quality of present moment attention to the people around us.”

The third aspect is helping people to reconnect with their inner contentment, which is the inner ability to be happy with oneself: “(…) help us cultivate a sense of inner wellbeing which allows us to feel content and well without needing to obtain anything from the outside world.”

The last way that mindfulness can improve people’s lives is enhancing gratitude: “mindfulness can infuse our lives with gratitude and enhance our appreciation of the ordinary things which can so often pass by unnoticed.”

These four different ways seem to leverage our overall ability to be happy and to feel happiness with the small things in life that many times are undervalued.

A recent study by Harvard University connected mindfulness practice with improving the brain and boost memory and empathy and reduce stress. The study concluded that practising mindfulness for 8 weeks can make a significant change in the grey matter. “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day. This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Read more about the study here.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness techniques, read our previous blogpost here and read about our mindfulness program here.

5 health benefits of mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation refers to the ability that we have of being in the here and now, completely aware of everything we are experiencing both inside ourselves and around us. Training your mind to be aware can provide several benefits for your health and your life in general.

Here are 5 benefits from practicing mindfulness meditation:

Be more focused

Mindfulness is about here and now. Is about focusing in the present and to evaluate it looking for positive outcomes. One of the ways to start practicing mindfulness is to focus on one task at the time. Focus solely on what you are doing and how you are doing it, learn and evaluate all the steps. And achieve a greater focus on everything you do.

Reduce stress

By becoming more aware of your own thoughts and knowing how to control them, you can reduce anxiety. People often get stressed when they feel they aren’t in control of things. So, controlling your mind and direct it towards positive thoughts can help reduce stress.

Make better decisions

After a mindfulness training you will have a choice to stop reacting automatically, give yourself time to think, know how to focus your attention and to remove the negative thoughts. This will lead to better decision-making, as your mind will allow you to take a pause and choose how you react.

Sleep better

Mediation is also known for relaxation, which can lead people to get to sleep quicker and sleep better. With the current practice of mindfulness it is possible to become more aware of the surroundings and to be able to relax and fall asleep faster and sleep better.

Become physically healthier

Recent studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness can be seen at the physical health level like treating heart disease, lower blood pressure or reduce chronic pain. Aligning your mind and your body to achieve a positive outcome can be a very powerful tool.

Learn more about Mindfulness here.

Medical Port can help you start with your Mindfulness practicing with the help of trained and skilled psychologists. Learn more about our Mindfulness program here.