The thing I love most about living back at home with my parents, aside from having a free personal cook and laundry lady, is meal time. At breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we all sit around the dining table and demolish a delicious, healthy feast prepared by my mum. Sometimes we have the telly on, but we will only watch it if Oprah or Modern Family is on. Otherwise, we relish in the tasty food and chat about whatever is going on in our lives. Three times a day, we create a calming, joyful environment to eat in. This is quite the contrast to how meal times looked when I was living out of home and working full time in a city. Breakfast and lunch were usually eaten at my desk and dinner was either in the form of canapés eaten standing up at a work event or wolfed down on the couch in front of the TV late at night. Eating was something that accompanied a more important activity, rather than an activity in and of itself, worthy of exclusive quality time. I have to say, the eating ritual instilled by my parents is so much more enjoyable, and as I’ve recently discovered, also so much more beneficial to your health and well-being.

Too many of us eat in front of the TV or computer, in the car, standing up, or on the phone. As a result of our increasingly busy lifestyles, time scheduled to sit down and have a meal is a rarity saved for Sundays – or sometimes not even then. How many times have you hungrily gobbled down a meal while at the same time completing another task? Notice how before you know it you have finished the meal without tasting a bite. This is called unconscious eating, and when performed regularly, it can lead to a range of digestive disorders, from acid reflux to irritable bowel syndrome and more. When we eat too fast, on the run or under stress, the sensors that connect our gut to our brains and our five senses are not triggered. Our bodies aren’t prepared for digestion. This also goes for feeling full. By the time our brains get the message that our tummies are topped up, we’ve already inhaled a massive meal and moved on to our next duty. Our bodies barely realize that we’ve eaten, even though our stomachs are full of food.

So, how can this be prevented? Simply through eating mindfully. This means taking the time to be mindful of each bite you put into your mouth. Mindful eating will stop you from over eating, increase your enjoyment of food and subtle (healthy) flavors, improve your digestion, and help you be satisfied with less food.

Hare are 7 tips to eat mindfully:

1. Eat in a calming environment.
Sit down at a table, go outside and eat in a local park. Don’t eat at your desk, in your car, or on the couch.

2. Honor your meal. Take a minute before you dig in to give thanks for the food you are about to eat and to set an intention for what the meal will do for you. Tell yourself that the food is helping you heal or contributing to your vibrant health.

3. Chew your food! Digestion begins in the mouth with the action of saliva. If food isn’t chewed properly it means that there’s more work for the rest of your digestion system. I think it’s going a bit overboard to suggest chewing each bite 100 times, but just make sure the food is broken down before you swallow.

4. Savor each mouthful. One you put a bite of food in your mouth, take a moment to appreciate it. Notice the flavors, the texture, and the goodness you are receiving.

5. Don’t multi-task while eating. Make meal times exclusively for eating. You will be more mindful if you are not watching TV, reading a magazine, or talking on the phone during chow time.  

6. Enjoy home-cooked meals. When you’ve made a nutritious meal yourself from scratch you are more likely to appreciate it in all of its fresh, healthy glory. 

7. Feel your fullness.
Eating slowly will help your stomach realize when it is full. This will then give your brain enough time to get the message that it is time to stop eating. 

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