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The Vegan Menopause Podcast -- Ep. 14 -- Mindful Eating

Updated: Apr 5

Why would you want to eat mindfully?  One reason is that as estrogen drops, we have a tendency toward more eating and getting less movement, which would lead to weight gain. 

We also have another hormone called leptin that signals that we are full.  When estrogen decreases in menopause, we can become resistant to leptin and may not recognize the signals that we are full.  So you may feel more hungry during perimenopause.

Another reason for mindful eating is if you eat when you are stressed, that could lead to eating more food.  Some people may eat less and some people may eat more – I’m definitely in the stress eating group. Feeling bored or empty, such as while working at a job you don’t like, can also lead to reaching for food just to provide some comfort or stimulation.

Eating when you are stressed may not only affect the type of food and amount of food you eat, it can also affect your digestion.  Slowing down and eating in a relaxed state activates the parasympathetic nervous system.  You may have heard of the sympathetic nervous system as fight, flight, or freeze, and the parasympathetic as rest and digest.  Being in a state of relaxation while you eat helps calm the gastrointestinal tract and can help prevent bloating, gas, and indigestion.  In Ayurveda there is the belief that poor digestion forms ama, or toxins, that lead to disease, and that even if you eat less healthy foods, but you eat them mindfully, this will result in better digestion than if you eat healthy foods without awareness.

Overeating leads to many many health problems in North America.  Ideally, after meals, we want to feel satisfied, but not stuffed or heavy.

Mindful eating can help you become more aware of your hunger and how satisfied you are.  You may have spent years overeating or dieting, or switching back and forth – yo-yo dieting.  Or you may have eaten most of your meals according to other people’s schedules or eaten quickly before meetings or in the car between errands.  Habits such as these can cause us to forget how to recognize true hunger or satiation.

Mindful eating can help you relearn how to eat according to your own needs.

For starters, recognizing whether you are actually hungry.  You might feel your stomach growling or feeling empty.  You also might be more willing to eat food in general, as opposed to a specific food.  Ask yourself – would I eat beans and veggies right now or am I just hungry for chocolate.   Is my hunger coming from my body or my thoughts?

If you recognize that it’s not actual hunger, maybe there’s something else you need other than food right now, for distraction or comfort.  Call a friend, go for a walk, put on a song you like, smell an essential oil you enjoy.

Remember that sometimes when we are craving food, we could actually be thirsty, so try drinking a glass of water and see how that feels.

And if you recognize that there is an emotional reason you want to eat, you could take a moment for journalling what’s going on.  And then you can consciously choose whether you still want to give into the craving, but do it in a mindful way, with awareness and respect. 

Truly enjoying your food can help you eat less but feel more satisfied.

So here is an example of what a mindful eating practice could look like.

It’s not crucial but you could set up your eating environment to make it more pleasurable, with fresh flowers, candles, or music.  The important thing is that there are no distractions such as the tv or electronics, because the news or social media could be stressful, even at a low level.

Take some time to enjoy the smell and the visual appeal of the food.  Acknowledge and appreciate where your food came from.  Where and how it was grown, all the water and sunlight the plants took in.  You could find a way to say thank you.  Take a few breaths and mentally prepare to receive the food.  And with each bite, notice the texture, and flavours.  Chew your food well, until it is of an even consistency.  Pause in between bites.  Put your fork down and breathe or a sip of water.  After every few bites, notice how your body feels and whether you have had enough food to satisfy your body’s needs.

When you are finished eating, take a moment to relax and digest your food.  

Now I recognize this might not be realistic for you to do at every meal and you might also be influenced by other people in your home, but you could include just one element of what I described, or if you start with one meal a day or one day a week, or even a few slowed down bites at the start of each meal that would be a great starting point and you could build from there.  If you regularly eat while you are in front of the computer, you could start with one meal without electronics.

I do believe that following some or all of these tips would definitely benefit you and again, don’t feel the need to be perfect about it, it’s not all or nothing.  Any step you take will add up over time.

Book a free 30-minute Menopause Empowerment Call with me. 

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