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Mindful Matters: Eating consciously will relax you

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Words: Chef Yoko Inoue Photography: Supplied

Mindfulness is a term that is commonly associated with Buddhism and Zen Philosophy but it also has an important role in the everyday activities of our lives. A great example of mindfulness in pop culture might be in the classic film, The Karate Kid – the wax-on, wax-off scene in which the karate teacher gives his student a tedious task that enables him to tap into a state of meditativeness.

Eating, behaving, and living consciously requires you to move out of a state of reaction so that your impulses no longer drive your habits. This is the key to taking charge of many matters you thought were out of hands, including your health.

How does one approach a mindful eating ambition?
Be aware of every bite you take. That means having no distractions while you eat, and avoid eating on-the-run. Your food deserves your full attention, a complete and uninterrupted celebration of its flavours and textures from each of your senses. When last did you fully immerse your attention in your meal? When you achieve the peace it requires to do this, you’ll also notice how pleasurable it is to chew slowly and savour the mixture of tastes and flavours that have come together.

The meal takes longer, it feels like you’ve consumed a great quantity of food, and your body feels satiated. There’s a scientific explanation for why mindful eating can help you to eat less, get more energy and nourishment from your food, and digest your meal more effectively.

How eating has changed
In the modern-day and age, time has become a commodity. The faster you complete tasks, the more you’re perceived as productive. As a result, multitasking is common, using devices while eating is incredibly common. This means you’re not registering the food coming in, not chewing properly (which is one of the most underrated practices), all of which affect the food and its ability to deliver its full value to the body. By not giving the food your undivided attention, you lose out on many aspects of the flavour leading you to want more. ‘Quantity’ has become prized over ‘quality’.

One of the many Japanese traditions that can play a valuable part in learning how to eat consciously, involves saying thank you for the food by acknowledging and appreciating all that it is.

Better balance – you may find that you’re eating less because you’re experiencing your food to a greater extent. You’re also more satisfied and fuller. This is because eating slowly gives your body the time to send out signals of satiety before you overeat.

Better digestion – digestion is one of the most intense energy-consumptive processes within the body. When there’s less food to digest, less energy is wasted, provided the food is nutrient-dense. Slower eating will also result in more of the food’s nutrients being broken down effectively and utilised as an energy resource.

Reduced depression – mindful eating can improve your gut health by giving the gut more time to process the food. Most of our body’s serotonin is, in fact, manufactured in the gut. A healthier gut is the key to improved mental health and a reduction in symptoms related to depression and anxiety.

Improved sense of wellness – when you make healthier choices that are mindful you can meet your body’s true needs more effectively. This can help to balance deficiencies and give you a broader range of nutrients.

How to start eating consciously
This process has to start from the raw ingredients and how you source the products. Eating starts long before the event. Conscious decision-making around food involves: Supporting local farmers

Becoming aware of how your food is grown so that you can take ownership in your decisions to support good ethics Learning how to get in tune with your body so you can choose, consciously, what to eat. Every person’s body is different, no one outside of you can tell you what your body is signalling to you.

Be aware of how much you ate yesterday so that you can bring about balance in your body through your decisions today. The body is intelligent, learn is its signals to you. Learn to differentiate between your body’s needs and your mind’s cravings, and learn to recognise your tendency to eat out of stress or other states of dysregulation in the body.

Learn to pause
Your power lies in the stopping, the space between choosing and eating. This is the gear shift between eating out of impulse and eating consciousness.

Follow these 4 steps to get started:
1. Understand where your food is coming from is the first step.
2. Consciously buy food where your values and ethics align.
3. Support small, local farmers.
4. Consciously prepare your food – it’s all about intentions and choosing how to treat the food.
Ask yourself: Why are you eating? Is it to nourish your body, or to please guests (who are
you feeding)?
5. Food is for health but also social aspects – it’s a way of showing love. There is a place for certain diets to heal. There’s no one-way-or-the-highway approach. In fact, studies show most long-living people are not following a particular diet, and they’re not being dogmatic.

Mindful eating goes beyond merely paying attention to what’s on your plate and how you consume it. You also learn to recognise your body’s various cues; you can distinguish true hunger from cravings that might stem from emotional responses, thirst, or other bodily needs.

You understand the value of nourishing your body rather than just satisfying your hunger – true nourishment gives you abundant energy and fewer food cravings. Mindful eating also means learning to hear your body’s subtle signals of satiation and stopping when you’re full, not when you’ve cleared your plate.

You can also observe the effects certain foods have on your body and your state of well-being and responding responsibly to those cues.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
www.shokuikuaustralia.com

Chef Yoko Inoue is the founder of Shoku Iku, a Melbourne-based organic raw and living
food cafe. Having studied macrobiotic philosophy and culinary skills at Japan’s Kushi
Institute, Yoko integrates contemporary and traditional ideas of macrobiotic and Chinese
philosophies with modern nutrition in an effort to promote healthy and ethical food and
lifestyle choices.

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