The Power of Mindful Eating: Chewing for Optimal Digestion

At VIVA Wellness, we wholeheartedly believe in nurturing the connection between integrative and holistic health and mindfulness in every aspect of life. As a leading Southeast Wisconsin comprehensive wellness clinic, we encourage our clients to practice mindful eating as a complement to the services we offer. If you often find yourself eating while distracted, emotional eating, or experiencing indigestion or bloating from eating too quickly, you may benefit from a mindful eating intervention. Let’s explore the reasons why chewing your food properly is a vital practice we encourage all our clients to embrace.

What is mindful eating?

The true meaning of mindfulness goes beyond simply being aware of the busy hustle and bustle of everyday life. Mindfulness is about consciously taking care of yourself and being fully present in the moment. And when it comes to eating, being mindful can completely change your relationship with food.

The practice of mindfulness has helped countless individuals live with intention and develop the skills necessary to manage chronic pain, disease, depression, sleep problems, and anxiety. It has expanded to revolutionize the way we approach eating food. We’ve long known that diets alone are ineffective without behavior change. Despite countless studies and diets claiming to be the most effective, the reality is that they all work in the short term and fail in the long run.

Mindful eating is a different approach altogether. It’s not about calories, carbs, or fat. It’s about changing eating behaviors by savoring and fully experiencing your food, moment by moment, without judgment. While weight loss often occurs naturally as a result, the true intention is to help you embrace the present moment and enjoy your food to the fullest.

Unlike traditional diets that focus on rules and restrictions, mindful eating is about appreciating the experience of eating without depriving yourself. You make conscious choices about what and how much to eat, ultimately leading to healthier habits and better overall health.

It’s no secret that fad diets often fail over time. The key to success lies in connecting with your body by paying attention to physical hunger cues. Mindless eating, where you’re not fully present, can lead to overeating and unhealthy habits. At VIVA Wellness, we understand the complexity of your relationship with food and your mind and body. Our individualized weight loss protocols involve a spectrum of healthcare professionals and services. It’s not about following strict rules or guidelines but rather embracing your unique experience with food and truly being in the present moment.

What are some benefits of mindful eating?

Mindful eating can truly revolutionize your relationship with food. Not only will you be nourishing your body with healthier choices, but you’ll also experience a newfound appreciation for every bite. Here are some specific benefits of mindful eating:

Rediscover the joy of food:

Food often becomes a significant source of stress for people who are struggling to lose weight or have a history of eating disorders. Mindful eating can reestablish a positive connection with food. Chewing slowly allows you to savor the flavors and relish food in smaller portions while experiencing the same satisfaction. This leads you to enjoy every meal and experience gratitude for the nourishment it provides.

Control Food Cravings:

By practicing mindful eating, you’ll notice unhealthy cravings fade away, replaced by a desire for nutritious choices. You will be aware of what your body truly needs rather than caving into temptation.

Optimize Digestion:

Extensive research has proven that mindful chewing aids in the digestive process. Slow down, chew thoroughly, and allow digestive enzymes in your mouth to begin breaking down your food before it hits your stomach. Eating slower can decrease unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and indigestion.

Regulate Your Eating:

Let mindful eating guide you in recognizing genuine hunger and satisfaction cues. Eating mindlessly often leads to emotional and disordered eating patterns, including binge eating. Being intentional about your eating means you will give your body regular meals and snacks to give you energy throughout the day.

Lose Weight:

At VIVA Wellness, we encourage our clients to embrace mindful eating as a way to manage their weight naturally, relying on their body’s signals rather than counting calories. This has been supported by research studies that show that mindful eating behaviors support weight loss efforts.

Why is it important to chew properly?

There’s more to chewing than meets the eye—or stomach! It plays a vital role in your overall health. Not only does it reduce the risk of choking, but it also promotes proper digestion, allowing your body to absorb essential nutrients effectively. By breaking down food into smaller pieces, chewing ensures that your body can extract all the goodness from what you eat. Without eating slowly with adequate chewing, you could experience digestive complications like constipation, indigestion, stomach ache, and more.

So, what exactly is proper chewing? Is it always better to chew more and slower? While it depends on the circumstances, conscientious chewing habits generally advocate chewing more times and more slowly. There is no specific number for how many times you should chew, most experts agree that arbitrary rules like ten or 32 chews are unnecessary. The number of chews will vary based on the type of food. Softer foods, like yogurt or eggs, may require only six to ten chews, while tougher foods, like meat or crunchy cucumber slices, will need more chewing.

You can also extend the time between bites by setting down your cutlery, taking sips of water, or engaging in conversation with others during meals.

While there is no such thing as chewing too much, remember that the goal is to improve digestion, nutrient absorption, and mindfulness. Avoid multitasking during meals and instead focus on the act of chewing and eating with full attention.

Conscientious chewing is a part of mindful eating, which involves maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Slow down, chew well, and nourish your body and mind with every bite. Here are some specific benefits you’ll experience:

Improved Nutrient Absorption

Chewing food serves as the crucial first step in the digestion process. As we chew our food, enzymes in our saliva begin breaking down carbohydrates, setting the stage for efficient nutrient absorption in the small intestine. By thoroughly chewing our food, enzymes are able to access more nutrients and enhance their bioavailability. Then, as food enters the stomach, it triggers the release of gastric juices, which further break down the food for absorption. This means that our bodies can extract more essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, supporting not only weight loss goals but also overall health and vitality.

Enhanced Satiety and Weight Management

Mindful chewing is a powerful tool for weight management. By taking the time to chew our food slowly and thoroughly, we allow our bodies to register feelings of fullness more accurately. This regulates food intake by preventing overeating. It also encourages a deeper connection to our body’s hunger and satiety cues. As a result, clients at VIVA Wellness often experience improved portion control, reduced mindless snacking, and a healthier relationship with food, all supportive of their relationship to food over the course of their individual weight change journey. You won’t even have to hit the Brookfield Elite Fitness: chewing food properly even helps burn calories without hitting the gym! Of course, we encourage the exercise and the fun through our partnership with Elite Sports Clubs in the Milwaukee area.

Easing the Burden on the Digestive System

Our team (specifically Colon Hydrotherapists, Gut Health, and Functional Medicine Experts) understands the significance of supporting a well-balanced digestive system. Mindful chewing eases the burden on the entire digestive tract by breaking down food into smaller, more manageable pieces. This makes it easier for the stomach and intestines to process and absorb nutrients effectively, reducing the likelihood of discomfort, bloating, and digestive disturbances.

Supporting Colon Hydrotherapy and Gut Health

By properly chewing our food, we ensure that it reaches the colon in a more digestible form. Proper chewing aids in the fermentation process of fibrous foods, which occurs in the large intestine. This not only optimizes nutrient absorption but also enhances the effectiveness of your VIVA Wellness colon hydrotherapy sessions. A healthier, well-functioning gut sets the stage for a successful colon hydrotherapy experience, promoting detoxification and supporting gut health and overall well-being.

How to eat mindfully

Eating mindfully and properly chewing your food is an art that takes practice. Here are some tips to help you get started:

It starts at the grocery store

Before you begin your journey to mindful eating, start with mindful grocery shopping.

Plan your weekly meals and create a shopping list based on your meal plan. Don’t hit the Waukesha Woodman’s while hungry! Avoid making impulsive purchases by grocery shopping on a full stomach. Hunger can lead to unnecessary splurges, costing you money and throwing off your budget.

Familiarize yourself with the store layout. Nutritious options can typically be found along the store’s perimeter, providing the energy and nutrients you need for a healthy lifestyle.

Evaluate your hunger

It can be tough to determine whether you’re actually hungry or are simply thirsty, bored, or emotional eating. Learning how to identify accurate hunger cues is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and taking care of your body. See also our article Control emotional food cravings and lose weight.

Hunger cues vary from person to person. Two people can eat the same meal but have different levels of satiety. Your nutritional needs can also fluctuate depending on your daily activities. It’s important to listen to your body’s communication and hunger signals.

When you’re actually hungry, you’ll experience symptoms such as stomach growling, low energy, shakiness, headaches, and difficulty focusing. Pay attention to these cues so you can recognize them in the future.

Consider factors such as what, when, and why you eat. Analyze your eating behaviors over a few days and highlight patterns that indicate misinterpreted hunger, such as eating out of boredom or in the presence of food. Identify your triggers, such as seeing tempting food or feeling stressed, tired, or offered treats by others.

Pause, take a few deep breaths, and honestly ask yourself if you’re physically or emotionally hungry. Do a body scan to evaluate your physical state and mood. Try to eat slowly and give your body time to signal fullness.

Put away distractions

Are you guilty of mindless eating while being distracted? This habit has more serious consequences than you might think.

Distracted eating can cause you to eat too quickly, absorbing less nutrients. This can have negative effects on your health if left unchecked.

Many of us have developed the habit of eating in front of a phone or TV. However, this often leads to paying more attention to the screen than to the food on our plates.

When you’re not fully present during a meal, you may miss out on appreciating the taste of the food. It’s similar to arriving at a destination without remembering the journey. You may find yourself with an empty plate without remembering how you got there!

Engage your senses

Part of mindful eating is to savor your meals by engaging each of your senses. It can be challenging to fully connect with our food, but practicing mindfulness while eating can bring you a deeper relationship with your body.

Let’s explore how each sense can enhance your eating experience:

  • SIGHT: Take a moment to appreciate the visual beauty of your meal. Notice the colors, textures, and shapes of the ingredients. Allow your eyes to be drawn to whatever naturally captures your attention.
  • SMELL: Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Let the scents of your food fill your senses. Can you distinguish the different aromas? Allow any memories or thoughts that arise to flow through your mind.
  • TOUCH: Feel the temperature of the bowl or plate in your hands. Notice any thoughts or emotions that arise as you prepare to eat. When picking up your utensil, notice its weight. If using your hands, take note of the texture of the food.
  • TASTE: Before taking a bite, pay attention to the sensations in your mouth. Is your mouth salivating in anticipation? Take a slow and deliberate bite, focusing on the flavors and textures. After swallowing, allow your mouth to reset before continuing.
  • HEARING: Take a moment to listen to your surroundings and take note of each sound you hear. You may be surprised how many sounds you pick up when you’re actually paying attention.

Check in with your body

Throughout your meal, check in with yourself. Are you hungry or full? Instead of mindlessly finishing everything on your plate, give yourself permission to stop eating if you’re satisfied.

Take a pause after eating to feel how your body is receiving the food. Notice sensations like rumbling in your tummy, sweating, tiredness, and tingling. This is your body’s way of communicating with you.

Now, pay attention to your stomach. Is it full? Does your body still want more food? Or are you trying to satisfy other types of hunger? Explore these feelings without judgment to better understand your relationship with food.

After your meal, take a moment to reflect on the experience. Have all eight types of hunger been satisfied? If not, make a note of which ones were not fulfilled.

Spend some time considering what your body needs to satisfy each unsatisfied hunger. It may take practice, but by regularly listening to your body, you’ll start to notice patterns and gain valuable insights. This will lead to more satisfying and fulfilling eating habits.

Remember, listening to your body takes effort and time. You don’t have to do it perfectly every time, but practicing awareness and acceptance will help you make better choices about how you nourish yourself.

Appreciate your food

Enter mindful eating with gratitude. This practice not only allows us to connect with others through food but also helps us appreciate all the efforts that go into bringing it to our plates. It’s a way to feel connected to ourselves, the earth, and something greater.

But it’s not just about the experience of eating. Science has shown that gratitude has numerous health benefits. Thoughts of appreciation and gratitude can shift your mood and make you happier. With mindfulness practices, like mindful eating with gratitude, you can fight depression and maintain overall well-being.

Furthermore, this practice can help those struggling with disordered food eating habits or diagnosed eating disorders. By being more present and attuned to hunger cues, you can better manage your eating patterns. Mindfulness allows you to observe how different foods make you feel and trust your own intuition rather than societal standards.

Whether it’s a donut or a salad, embrace it fully and savor every bite. Be grateful for the delicious treat or the nourishing meal that supports your health. Join the movement of mindful eating with gratitude and unlock a whole new level of joy and connection in your meals.

Embrace Mindful Chewing for Holistic Wellness

Why not unlock the power of mindful eating benefits and transform your relationship with food? It’s time to be present, savor each bite, and create a healthier, more conscious approach to eating. Remember, developing healthy habits takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself as you adapt to a healthier lifestyle. With practice, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your body. Acknowledge your successes along the way and celebrate your progress.

As you embark on your journey towards holistic well-being and/or weight management at VIVA Wellness, remember that something as simple as healthy eating using mindful chewing can hold one of the keys to profound transformation. By savoring each bite, nourishing your body with intention, and supporting your digestive system, you are empowering yourself to achieve optimal health, vitality, and a more balanced relationship with food. Mindful chewing is a practice that transcends the plate, cultivating a deeper connection to your body, mind, and overall well-being.

Mindful eating and proper chewing are a great start to a whole wellness protocol. Contact your Brookfield VIVA Wellness clinic to get the comprehensive services you need to be truly well.

Contact us to book and appointment or consultation in Brookfield, WI.

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