Eating mindfully is the single most effective way to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. But did you know that it will also get rid of many digestive problems?
One of the reasons for the increase in obesity in the western cultures is people not taking the time to sit and enjoy their meals. They eat on the run, while multitasking or being distracted by life’s many demands.
As psychologist and mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn explains, “For the most part, we eat with great automaticity and little insight into its critical importance for us in sustaining life and also in sustaining health.”
For years, I suffered from chronic excessive gas and stomach aches. I was overweight, and gaining more weight because I was overeating. I wasn’t listening to my body’s signals.
Because I was usually distracted when eating, I often felt overly full after meals. I took various over-the-counter medications to get rid of those sharp gas pains I experienced frequently.
Then I started practicing mindful eating. I only ate when my body was hungry and stopped eating before I was full. And guess what? My digestive problems disappeared! I was able to throw away all those digestive aids and haven’t needed them since.
Many of my post-menopausal clients who have suffered from heartburn, indigestion and worse digestive ailments no longer need prescription drugs or other medications. Once they started eating mindfully, they stopped experiencing those symptoms – and they lost weight!
You get the benefit of the first phase of the digestive process. The “cephalic” (literally meaning “head”) phase happens before we actually start to eat and makes up between 30–40 percent of our total digestive response.
That’s when you see your food, smell it, think about it, and your brain tells your mouth and stomach to turn on the digestive juices. If you aren’t paying attention to your food before you begin to eat, you are missing out on this important part of the process.
You eat more slowly and chew your food better. This gives your stomach an easier job of breaking down what you’ve eaten.
You notice your body telling you when you’ve had enough to eat – before you’ve eaten too much. Too often, we don’t pay attention to what we’re eating and don’t notice we’ve overeaten until it is too late. That overtaxes your digestive system.
Your system isn’t stressed, so you digest and metabolize your food better. When you eat on the run or multitask while eating, this puts stress on your body so your digestion doesn’t work as well.
In a 1987 study in the journal Gastroenterology, people who drank a nutritious beverage while relaxed assimilated all of the nutrients in the drink. Those who were distracted, however, even by conversation, didn’t digest their drink as well, and their metabolism was also impaired.
You are more aware of how certain foods make you feel. Do you love oatmeal, but it doesn’t sit well when you eat it first thing in the morning? Do you feel hungry an hour after eating certain foods, but satisfied hours later with others? If you pay attention, you’ll have a better idea of how different foods affect your body.
And yes, if you are overweight, eating mindfully will help you lose weight.
Are you looking to lose a little weight and solve digestive problems as well? Do you suffer from digestive problems? What do you do to get relief? Please join the conversation below!