Attentive eating exercise

21 January 2021

Have you ever done an attentive eating exercise?

Attentive (mindful) eating involves paying attention to the experience of eating. Attention is given to the colours, smells, temperatures, flavours, and textures of the food. It also involves tuning into the body, observing hunger, satiety, discomfort, tension, pain, thoughts, moods and emotions.

Why do this?

When stressed, tense, or distracted, the body has to pull attention and resources away from the digestive process in order to respond to that stress. Attentive eating enhances digestion by allowing the body to focus its energy and deliver its resources where they need to be.

I usually make a concerted effort to eat without distraction (no TV, radio or phone), but I often rush a meal in order to get back to work.

This rushed approach to eating is not good. It stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, taking resources away from digestion. Muscle tension increases, as does blood pressure and heart rate. Gastrointestinal blood flow decreases, enzymatic production in the stomach and pancreas decreases, and bile flow from the gallbladder decreases.

The act of slow and thorough chewing ensures food is properly infused with saliva, which acts to lubricate and moisten the food, as well as allow sufficient enzymes to begin breaking down the food.

Taking some deep breaths before a meal is beneficial too, but not just for relaxation. The cells lining the intestine need to extract large quantities of oxygen from the blood during digestion. When stressed, not only is breathing shallow, but oxygen is directed away from the digestive system. Nutrient absorption therefore decreases.

My experience

I first did this exercise back during my nutrition studies. I documented my experience, which is why I am able to share it here with you now. For the first time in a long time, I experienced no digestive upset, and there was a noticeable lack of tension throughout my body. My usual preoccupied, rushed, anxious mental state had been replaced with a sense of calm.

In the breathing part of this exercise, I noticed a reduction in tension before the meal.

Have you tried this exercise? I’d love to hear your experience.

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About Tira

About Tira

Tira Cole is a nutritionist, researcher and educator. Her passion is meat-based nutrition and support of farming.

Learn more about Tira.

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