Whenever I'm eating something absolutely delicious, like the coconut milk salted caramel ice cream cone I had over the weekend, it's usually not until I'm scraping up the last bite that I actually realize, "Wait, it's already all gone?" Sometimes my sheer excitement for the food I'm about to eat momentarily blinds my senses to the point where I don't truly take the time to enjoy my meal. But, according to experts, the benefits of mindful eating, and of really savoring the food that's nourishing your body, can make your experiences with food more pleasurable, and maybe even more memorable, too.
While many fad diets tend to promote a negative relationship with food, mindful eating is built on the premise that allowing a connection to form between you and what you're eating is a wonderful thing. According to the nonprofit organization The Center for Mindful Eating, this way of thinking about food allows you to "become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.” Mindful eating is about using your senses "to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body," the organization explains, and about gaining an overall greater awareness of what you like and don't like in your food, without judging yourself for having those preferences.
According to naturopathic physician and certified nutritionist Dr. Pamela Reilly, if you're truly eating mindfully, you're also eating slowly.
"Eating in a calm state helps reduce cortisol and other hormones that can negatively impact digestion," Reilly tells Elite Daily over email. Giving your body your complete, undivided attention while you're eating, Reilly says, is crucial for improving digestion.
But mindful eating doesn't just make your gut happy. When you approach your meals through the perspective of mindful eating, you'll start to notice which foods actually make you feel good when you eat them, and which ones make you feel sick, or tired, or just downright crappy. "The core of mindful eating includes listening to one's body and eating foods that benefit it instead of harming it," Reilly tells Elite Daily. "We instinctively know what's best for our body."
In other words, mindful eating is very much about trusting yourself and your body's signals. And while so many diets require you to scrutinize every piece of food you eat and the numbers associated with them (calories, macros, etc.), mindful eating simply asks you to pay attention to what you're putting on your plate and how it makes you feel, rather than obsess over every single detail of each meal. "If you pay attention to your food you are psychologically more satisfied by it," Dr. David Cox, chief medical officer at meditation app Headspace, told SELF in a 2016 interview.
So as you might have guessed, there aren't exactly specific foods to stick to when it comes to mindful eating.
In other words, any piece of delicious food you pop into your mouth can be eaten mindfully and with great joy. While Harvard Women's Health Watch specifically recommends a Mediterranean diet (which focuses on eating plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and other natural food sources), the newsletter says mindful eating "can be applied to a cheeseburger and fries" just as easily. By following an intuitive eating approach, you'll be able to give your body exactly the foods it needs, because your focus will be on nourishment and enjoyment, rather than on following a strict set of guidelines.
If you're eager to start eating more mindfully, I have to put on my anti-technology grandma hat for a second and say that your first step should be to ditch your phone during your meals. Katey Davidson, a registered dietitian and founder of the wellness website Taste of Nutrition, tells Elite Daily over email that it's best to avoid eating with distractions like TV or your phone. Yes, I know that Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski's Instagram posts aren't going to like themselves, and that Princess Diaries has finally arrived on your Netflix queue, but if you really want to eat mindfully, Davidson says giving your whole focus to that beautiful bowl of pasta you've just served up is the best way to go.
If you have a history of disordered eating, Dr. Reilly emphasizes that you should be extra careful before changing your diet. "Anyone with a history of an eating disorder should use extreme caution in embracing a mindful eating lifestyle," she tells Elite Daily. She recommends working with an experienced counselor and nutritionist to make sure you're getting all of the good nutrients your body needs.
Now go eat that tasty treat you've been dreaming about all day, and enjoy every last bite.