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Home » Mindful eating: The master key to good gut health

Mindful eating: The master key to good gut health

by Navni Chawla
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Mindful eating
Cherishing each morsel with mindfulness cleans the gut, reduces stress, improves digestion, and stimulates overall well-being.

Eating can be the most joyful and blissful activity of our day. What we eat, how we eat, how much we eat, where we eat, and at what time we eat impacts our health.
Eating slowly and mindfully adds sanctity to the act of eating.
Swami Veda Bharati who belongs to the lineage of Himalayan masters, said in his video lecture on ‘Inspirations’, “Let the awareness of the Atman or Self be your state of consciousness while you are eating.
Remain in that state so that eating, as it is said in the scriptures, becomes a Homa, fire offering.
Every morsel of your food becomes the offering into the digestive fire of the navel center. This is called the art of eating.”
Certain mistakes we make before, during, or after a meal prevent us from benefiting from the healthiest food in the world. These poor eating habits result in bloating, acidity, lethargy, excess weight, belly fat, hair fall, and skin problems.
A balanced way of eating helps one feel light after having a meal, energetic from morning till evening, and maintain one’s ideal weight.

Let’s dig deep into six mistakes we tend to make and how to fix them:

1. Eating when not hungry

We all have experienced this, especially during lockdowns. We come and stand in front of the fridge every two hours. When we keep munching throughout the day, then by lunch or dinner time, we don’t feel real hunger at all.
We still have a meal dumping food on that extinguished digestive fire. “Without hunger, every bite we take is like poison for the body because food eaten without hunger cannot be digested at all,” says Dr Pal Manickam, a renowned gastroenterologist and YouTube star.
And how will undigested food get out of the body? It will stay stuck inside and keep rotting.

Solution

Stop snacking and munching in between meals. Think of eating food like conducting a havan, a fire ritual. Before a havan, we gather all the ingredients needed and have them handy. Bowing down, we take a seat and slowly offer the ingredients to the fire.
In the same way, we must make eating a sacred ritual. Casually throwing food down the gullet while walking, talking, or in front of a screen is a big NO. So, between meals, remember to keep a few hours gap.
The best sauce in the world is our hunger. When you are hungry, even plain food tastes amazing.
To summarize, eat only when you are hungry. If you are not hungry, it’s better to skip meals.

sports pic clevelandclinic

Whatever we eat when we are sad, angry, or when we don’t feel like it, it turns toxic because we can’t digest it. So, eat only when you are in a happy, relaxed, stable, peaceful, and comfortable state, physically and mentally.

2. Eating when you are angry, fearful, irritated, tense, or stressed

When something is troubling your mind, your entire energy is directed there, leaving none to digest food. That’s why even hunger sometimes disappears when we are in a bad mood.
Whatever we eat when we are sad, angry, or when we don’t feel like it, it turns toxic because we can’t digest it.

Solution

Eat only when you are in a happy, relaxed, stable, peaceful, and comfortable state, physically and mentally. Never eat while watching a violent movie on TV or a negative news story on your cell phone. Also, don’t dine at a table where others are arguing around you.

3. Mixing too many foods

When we mix different types of foods, the poor stomach needs clarification about what to digest. Our stomach can digest only one type of food at one time. It can only release one type of digestive juice at a time.
When we give it very different foods, it is not able to release different types of digestive juices. Undigested food leads to problems like acidity, headache, pimples, obesity, and lethargy.
In a book titled ‘The Essene Gospel of Peace’, Jesus Christ advises, “Be content with 2-3 foods as given by Mother Nature. Let me tell you truly, if you put all kinds of foods into your body, the peace of your body will be lost and there will be a war waging inside you.”

Solution

Eat only one type of food at a time. Next time you see 10 different items on the buffet table, put only 2-3 items on your plate. Instead of mixing too many grains at a time, eat only one grain – take wheat bread (rotis) or rice.

Sit on the floor to eat

Sitting on the floor while eating aids digestion and encourages mindful eating. Eating with your hands is also beneficial. When we touch food, the nerve endings in our fingers send a signal to our brain that food is about to enter the body.

4. Eating with fork, knife, or spoon

Traditionally we Indians eat with our hands. But under Western influence, we took to using cutlery.

Solution

When we touch food, the nerve endings in our fingers immediately send a signal to our brain that food is about to enter the body.
The brain then sends the same signal to our stomach, intestines, liver, and kidneys, which get activated. Our stomach starts releasing digestive juices, the liver starts releasing bile, and the intestines start getting lubricated.
Additionally, as per Ayurveda, sitting on the floor while eating promotes grounding, aids digestion, and encourages mindful eating.

4. Not chewing our food properly

We all know about the rule of chewing every bite of food 32 times but seldom do it. We tend to gulp down our food while watching TV or talking without even looking at our plates.
The more we chew the food, the more saliva is released. More saliva facilitates easier digestion. Digestion starts in the mouth as Ayurveda advises, “Drink your food and eat your water.”

Solution

Before swallowing any food, chew it over and over until it turns into juice. You can start by taking smaller bites and paying full attention to the food on your plate.
Chewing your food properly will cut digestion time by half. Let teeth do their work, and not overburden the intestines. Then, you will experience much more energy, lightness, and mental clarity.

5. Eating till our stomach is full

The digestion process is hampered when we stuff our stomachs with food. It is advisable to eat as much food as fits in both palms of our hands, called Anjali in Hindi.
Rujuta Diwekar, a renowned celebrity nutritionist in India, says, “The key to staying healthy while eating all you love is in knowing when to stop.
The only way to know we have eaten enough is when the entire experience of having food starts dropping. The time to stop eating is just before that happens.”
You will notice that the first few morsels of your favorite dish are always tastier than what follows. Rujuta adds, “It takes attention and daily practice to become mindful of when your body signals you to stop. But once you get it right, it can bring big changes in your life, such as leading a disease-free life thereafter.”

Solution

Indian scriptures say that we should only fill our stomach to half its capacity, leaving one-fourth space for the digestive juices and the rest empty for the contents to churn.
“The space left empty for the air element ensures that the churning action, Samana Vayu, has enough room to mix food with digestive enzymes and mucus to create chyle,” says Sarah Dunfee, in an article posted on Deepak Chopra’s website.
So, when you feel like taking a second serving, stop and wait for two minutes. If you still feel hungry, then go for it. Usually, by giving a break you will know that your body might not need another serving.

In conclusion, embracing mindful eating is not just a practice at the dining table, it’s a journey towards a healthier, more intentional relationship with food. It involves being grateful for the food on our plates.
By savoring each bite, cultivating awareness, and listening to our bodies, we not only nourish ourselves physically but also foster a deeper connection between our mind, body, and the simple joy of eating.

Photos: Freepik, Clevelandclinic.org, Ishayoga.org 

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