Savor the Moment: How Mindful Eating Can Make You Happier and Healthier

By Jeffrey Field
January 30, 2018

Mindful eatingIf your typical day consists of scurrying the kids off to school and then rushing to work, gulping down meals in the car, it's time to sit down and give yourself a break.

"We're all disconnected with the experience of eating," says Dr. Leigh Wagner, formerly of Integrative Medicine at The University of Kansas Health System. "We're all kind of eating mindlessly, going through our days."

Instead, she said we should try to embrace a mindful eating approach at mealtime.

Mindful eating is the slow, deliberate process of paying attention to your food's overall sensory experience, focusing not just on its taste, but also its smell, appearance and even the crackles and crunches as we chew. It means sitting down to eat – and not doing it while you drive, sit in front of a TV, or have your eyes locked on your phone.

"You're in that present moment," Wagner says.

She says too many of us zip through meals in an effort to get on with our busy schedule. But mindful eating can turn mealtime into an oasis of calm in our stressful days. It also helps you better digest your food and get the nutrients you need from it.

"People who are mindlessly eating, a lot of times, have a lot of indigestion because they're essentially just swallowing their food whole," Wagner says. "There's also more of a tendency to overeat when you're mindlessly eating."

That's because your body doesn't have time to catch up with a feeling of being satisfied. Someone who wolfs down meals may have an energy crash before it's time to eat again, leading them to snack between meals – often on something sugary.

Wagner says in an ideal situation, people would take at least 20 minutes to eat a meal. But life doesn't always afford that opportunity. Instead, she suggests spending more time chewing or taking short breaks between bites, such as setting down your fork or taking a sip of water. If you're eating with other people, these are things they probably won't even notice.

"Do things that can deliberately slow you down," Wagner says.

Integrative medicine at The University of Kansas Health System can help you find the nutritional approach that's right for you. Call 913-588-6208 to make an appointment with a member of our team.

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