What is Mindful Eating
Mindful eating has been used to treat a wide range of eating issues, such as the inability to lose or gain weight, binge eating, eating disorders and everything in between over many years.
In this article, you will learn about the cephalic phase of digestion, what happens when you improve your eating habits and the benefits of mindful eating.
Why Should I Eat Mindfully?
The main purpose of mindful eating is to change your relationship with food. Mindful eating is anything but a “diet”. In fact, it’s basically the opposite! Changing the way you eat is not just about developing discipline over your food preferences or losing weight. Instead, it’s about mastering control over your mind. When using mindfulness around food, you become present and aware of yourself. So you naturally start controlling your portions, choosing healthy options and avoiding emotional eating.
Mindful eating means that you feel the food in your stomach and experience pleasure from eating. When you are careful, you notice how your stomach expands and feels fuller as you eat. You experience each bite from start to finish. You slow down every aspect of the eating process and become fully aware of it.
Overeating and under-eating are both ways to distract you from your worries and help you cope with uncomfortable feelings. This explains why many people eat for emotional reasons, rather than the need for calories or nutrients.
When you practice mindful eating, you start to understand your own eating habits by recognizing reoccurring thinking patterns, moods, emotions, hunger levels and cravings that can affect your appetite. So essentially, instead of allowing your feelings to rule your food choices, you start being aware of things affecting your relationship with food thus becoming more in control of your health.
The Connection Between Mindful Eating and Cephalic Phase
There is an initial phase of digestion called the cephalic phase that occurs before we actually start to eat. Cephalic means “head,” so it is not surprising that this initial phase of digestion begins with the brain seeing, smelling, and anticipating food. An example of the cephalic phase happening is when you smell bread baking. Anticipating the delicious flavor of the freshly baked bread causes the mouth to water, preparing you to eat the bread.
In this phase, the brain informs the stomach that it should prepare for a meal by initiating a number of digestive activities. The body begins to prepare for the breaking down and absorption of nutrients. Salivation is activated (saliva is used for the initial break down of carbohydrates) and pancreatic enzymes and stomach acids (also used to break food down) are released. The conveyer belt that is the digestive tract begins its rhythmic movement so that nutrients can be absorbed and moved along.
Paying attention while eating assures full digestion as well as full nutritional benefit. It is estimated that as much as 30 to 40 percent of the total digestive response to any meal is due to the cephalic phase. So if we aren’t paying attention to what and when we eat, then we cannot trigger the full beneficial digestive response.
If we don’t eat mindfully, our digestion can be distracted by poor stimulation of the cephalic response. To have a healthy cephalic phase and help our body get the maximum benefit from enzymes, vitamins, fibers and many more substances that it needs to work properly, we should practice mindful eating and be fully aware of what we eat.
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