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Mindful Eating: Breaking the Stress Cycle

Health Coach, Cheri Timmons is back to share some tips on the most pleasurable way of breaking stress cycles - mindful eating. Below, discover the difference between distracted and mindful eating, and learn strategies to improve your habits.

From Cheri:

Giving your brain and body relief from feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and disruption is more essential than ever.

Mindfulness practices are effective strategies that can interrupt the stress cycle, resulting in:

  • Reduced build-up of stress hormones

  • Improved digestion

  • Enhanced sleep

  • Boosted focus and productivity

  • Minimized headaches and pain

  • Lowered blood pressure

  • Lessened emotional reactivity

  • Increased cognitive flexibility

Practicing mindfulness means you are giving present moment awareness to your thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations and/or environment. There are a variety of methods, but it can be enjoyable to focus on one that is most pleasurable – Mindful Eating.

The practice of Mindful Eating zeroes in on the easy and convenient activity that you are already doing in your day-to-day life…eating! This approach removes all judgment from what you are eating and simply focuses on the food (or beverage) you are having, as you are having it.

Before we dive into more details on Mindful Eating and how you can practice it, let’s look at what happens when you do not focus on your food.

Just as your car needs gas to run, you need food to fuel your body.

Unique to your body, however, is that digestion is directly impacted by your attention to what you are eating.

Distracted Eating

Studies show that when participants were distracted while eating (ex: watching a film), the activity in their digestive tract was reduced. The result? The digestion of their food was less effective.

When you don’t metabolize food as effectively, your body does not get all of the nutrients it needs from the foods you are eating.

Even if you are choosing foods that are more nutritious, if you are scrolling through social media, responding to emails or watching funny cat videos while you eat, your body will miss out on getting all of the nutrients available in what you are eating.

Preoccupation while eating also prevents your brain from receiving the full range of chemical messages that cue hunger and fullness. Therefore, eating more food than you intended can happen more easily when you are distracted.

Mindful Eating

By reconnecting to your food and the practice of eating, your brain and body can function the way they were designed.

Research reveals that the process of seeing, smelling and tasting your food initiates a wide range of essential digestive activities – releasing saliva and digestive enzymes, sending blood to digestive organs and contracting stomach and intestinal muscles.

In addition to enhancing digestion and nutrient absorption, as noted above mindful eating also helps to reduce feelings of stress, lower blood pressure, minimize headaches, boost working memory and improve focus.

Mindful eating is simply the act of paying attention to the food you are eating, while you are eating it. This works for beverages as well.

Below are six simple steps to practice mindful eating:

  1. Turn off distractions.

  2. Before eating, use your senses of sight, smell and touch to notice the color and shape, aroma and texture of what you are about to eat.

  3. Take a small bite, chew slowly. What sounds do you notice?

  4. Tune into the flavor and feel of the food in your mouth before you swallow it.

  5. Put your fork or food down between bites.

  6. Drop any judgement and enjoy your food!

This type of mindful attention to your food enhances your enjoyment of what you are eating, may also slow down your pace of eating and reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.

Pro Tips:

  • Remember that mindfulness is a practice.

  • Make it convenient.

  • Tune in and enjoy!

With hope and wellness, Cheri

For more tips, personal coaching and more, email

Cheri Timmons is a Greensboro Downtown Parks program partner. The work she does with us is critical to providing FREE wellness programming to our park community. As we make our way through these unprecedented times, consider how you might support local Greensboro non-profits like us, as well as local businesses, artists, entrepreneurs like Cheri, makers, and more. We'll continue to bring you free programming through our digital platforms and look forward to having you join us and Cheri back in the parks soon!

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