The Importance of Eating Mindfully During Difficult Times

With fear about the coronavirus shutting things down, hitting the stock market, impacting schools and work, it’s easy to get away from mindful eating. And yet, this is one of the most important times to be mindful.

It’s not easy, of course. When we’re afraid and stressed, we want comfort and security. If security is in short supply in the broader world, and we can’t even find comfort by visiting friends, going to places of worship, or giving hugs, it’s natural to want to reach for foods that make us feel safe and secure.

And I’m not saying to avoid those foods but rather to remember why it’s important to be mindful about eating them and not overdo it. This is true at any time, but it’s especially so when you want to take extra care to stay healthy.

Mindful Eating and Health

Take a moment and think about how you feel after overeating.

Do you feel good? Are you energized? Are you able to focus well?

If you’re like most people, the answer to those questions is no. More likely, you feel uncomfortable and you might have an upset stomach. You’re sluggish and might just feel like taking a nap – but if you do, you might not sleep well at night. You don’t have as much focus because your body is working hard to digest the food. You almost certainly don’t have an interest in being active.

Even if you don’t overeat while eating mindlessly, you probably didn’t get much enjoyment from the food since you weren’t paying attention to it. This could lead you to eat more so you get the experience you missed the first time, and that could result in overeating.

In these types of situations, where you overeat or eat mindlessly, your body doesn’t function as well. If you only reach for comfort foods, you’re probably not getting all the nutrients you need to keep your immune system healthy, and a lot of energy goes toward processing the food.

Mindless eating can also contribute to feeling stressed in the long run if you feel bad about it afterward, or if you spend a lot of time thinking about food when you could be thinking about other things.

On the flip side, if you eat more mindfully, paying attention to what your body needs and focusing on the food while eating, you’ll feel better. You’ll be giving your body better support, which helps your immune system.

Plus, eating mindfully is more calming and comforting than rushing through your food. You’ll likely find that you’re able to make better decisions and relax a little more in general if you do this, even though it takes practice.

Comfort Foods Balanced with Other Comfort

When it comes to comfort foods, you can eat those mindfully, and that’s a great start. But you might also want to think about balancing that with other types of comfort.

Do you have a hobby that you used to do but has fallen by the wayside, or something you’ve always been interested in trying? Now might be a good time to pick it up.

Do you have a stack of books that you’ve been waiting to read but haven’t had the time? This is a great opportunity.

Are there any online classes or groups that you could join so you can find ways of connecting with other people?

With more hours of daylight and spring around the corner (at least here in Maine), could you go for more walks and get out in nature?

Or maybe you enjoy cooking – are there some new recipes that you could try that balance comfort and nutrition?

These are just a few ideas, but hopefully, they give you some inspiration to think about what you can do to take care of yourself. If you can do some of this, your physical and mental health will benefit.

Finding Your Way in Difficult Times

These are trying times for all of us, and while some introverts do better with social distancing, it’s very isolating. We don’t know what to do, and it feels like so much is out of our control. That makes it very easy to turn to food, one thing that we can control.

But if you can find even small moments of being mindful when eating, both in your food choices and how you eat, you’ll likely feel better for it, in many ways. You won’t be in control, but you’ll be in charge, and making those conscious decisions to do things that help your body feel good go a long way.

And remember, you’re not alone. I’ll be thinking of all of you, and feel free to reach out if you need support. May you stay safe and healthy.

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