Mindful Eating: 3 Steps That’ll Help You Do It Right

Mindful eating evokes the senses and helps a person understand why they eat. It also promotes weight loss, which is not an actual a goal of this practice.

A spread of numerous dishes on a black wooden table

Practicing mindful eating could make all the difference in your relationship with food. A poor connection could lead to eating disorders and emotional habits that increase the risk of food-related conditions like obesity.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) places importance on balanced eating. According to Eu Yan Sang physician Ng Qing Xiang, “Overeating can harm the Spleen and Stomach. Under-eating impairs blood and qi (vital life force) production. These lead to disorders involving the five organ systems.”  

Separately, a weak Spleen system due to qi Deficiency or yang (active energy) Deficiency can induce a food coma. A qi Deficiency compromises the organ’s function to digest the foods consumed. Unhealthy eating and overconsumption of cold foods and beverages can further weaken Spleen qi and bring about yang Deficiency. 

Here are a few ways mindful eating can change your relationship with food.

Woman picking up food from a plate using chopsticks as she sits at a wooden table
Mindful eating allows you to make smarter food choices.

Who Knew Mindful Eating Could Be So Advantageous?

Mindful eating means better control over food consumption, which could improve your health. It requires a person to be physically and emotionally present when eating.

Take control over your blood glucose levels

A randomised, controlled trial studied the effects of mindfulness on sweets consumption and fasting glucose levels. It involved 194 obese adults and extended over five and a half months.

The adults were placed in two groups. The first group stuck to a diet and exercise programme centred on mindfulness. The second group was on a similar programme, but one that was void of mindful practices. After a year, the former group demonstrated a reduced intake of sweets and better management of fasting glucose. Meanwhile, the latter group had higher glucose levels.

Separately, a controlled trial of 50 adults with type 2 diabetes were placed on either a 3-month mindful eating intervention or diabetes self-management education intervention. It was found that both groups coped better with depression and showed improvements in their ability to manage food consumption and control overeating.

Fend off stress-related gastrointestinal disorders

Mindful eating can also reverse negative eating habits, such as overeating, stress eating and binge eating. It can also ease digestive disturbances provoked by stress.

Stress relates directly to several problems: 

  • Increased inflammation 
  • Decreased serotonin production 
  • Decreased production of stomach acid 
  • Decreased central nervous system innervation 
  • Decreased enteric nervous system innervation 
  • Decreased blood flow to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract  
  • Impaired nutrient absorption 
  • Impaired vagus nerve – main nerves in the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) – activity 
  • Increased intestinal permeability 
  • Increased sympathetic nervous system dominance 
  • Altered contraction of the GI tract muscles 

Conscious eating can rectify the abovementioned conditions and normalise other digestive functions such as:  

  • Boosting nutrient absorption 
  • Improving muscle contractions in the digestive tract 
  • Increasing the production of bile, enzymes, and gastric juice 
  • Enhancing the digestive system’s ability to break down food
oman picking a raisin from a bowl of oatmeal with her fingers
The Raisin Exercise helps a person become more aware when they eat by stimulating the senses.

How to Practice Mindful Eating Properly

Mindful eating has nothing to do with the amount of nutrients you consume. The principal goal of this practice is not weight loss but to improve your relationship with food. However, you might find yourself shedding some pounds if you adopt this eating style.

Awaken the senses

Raisin meditation is a basic but popular method for cultivating mindfulness. To perform the routine, set a raisin down in a bowl. Use two fingers to hold it and observe its weight and texture. Bring the raisin to your nose, take a deep breath, and smell it.

Then, place it on your ear and roll it while listening for a sound. Put the raisin between your teeth before moving it around in your mouth. Chew into it, close your eyes and immerse yourself in the consequence of your action.

Strike a balance

A core belief of TCM is that every person possesses a unique body constitution that may or may not make them vulnerable to illness. It can be neutralised through dietary and lifestyle changes, enabling your body to attain balance.

Physician Ng explains, “A person with a Yang Deficient body constitution should consume warming foods, such as ginger and cinnamon. On the contrary, eating too many cooling foods like pineapple, watermelon, or bitter gourd may induce further imbalance and aggravate symptoms like diarrhoea or loss of appetite.” 

To encourage optimal digestion, physician Ng proposes that a person drinks a tangerine peel (chen pi, 陈皮) herbal tea that is prepared with hawthorn berries (shan zha, 山楂). Likewise, a detoxing beverage made from algae, cereals, fruits and vegetables can prevent cell damage and toxin accumulation.

Meanwhile, activation of acupoints like bai hui (GV20, 百会), yin tang (EX-HN3, 印堂) zu san li (ST36, 足三里) and yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉) can address post-meal fatigue and make a person more alert.

Opposites attract

Indulging in food is easy to do, and we are all for it – in moderation, of course. However, it depends on the type of season you are experiencing. TCM specifically emphasises this rule, as it will ensure that a person’s body is in harmony with their external environment. 

Malaysia is a tropical country with hot, humid, and rainy weather throughout the year. It has high temperatures – 31°C to 33°C – with April being the warmest and January the coldest. 

TCM recommends consuming cooling foods like bitter gourd, watermelon, winter melon, and green beans to lower body temperature during the hotter months. During months when the surrounding temperature drops, you should eat warm-natured foods. These include cinnamon, chicken, mutton, and ginger. 

Rome was not built in a day, and neither will you be able to master mindful eating overnight. Persevere and you will eventually gain a better understanding of the link between food and body. If you wish to consider using traditional remedies, consult a licensed TCM practitioner beforehand. Doing so will help clarify the suitability of different foods for your body constitution.

References

 

  1. Cambridge Core. 2017. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. [online] [Accessed 9 May 2022]
  2. Harvard T.H. Chan. Mindful Eating. [online] [Accessed 9 May 2022]
  3. National Library of Medicine. 2019. Mindful Eating | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. [online] [Accessed 9 May 2022]
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2017. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. [online] [Accessed 9 May 2022]
  5. WEATHER & CLIMATE. Climate in Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory), Malaysia. [online] [Accessed 9 May 2022] 

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