Proper digestion is essential in maintaining a healthy digestive tract, and eating mindfully is an important aspect in achieving optimal digestion. The digestive tract is how the body obtains nutrients from food necessary for survival and health. Without adequate nutrient absorption a huge variety of deficiency diseases can occur such as developmental delays, vision changes, skin conditions, muscle wasting, cardiovascular problems, weak bones, autoimmune conditions, mental health conditions, fatigue, depression, hormonal imbalances, anemias, hypothyroidism, cancers, and more.
While nutritional deficiencies can cause weight loss, deficiency diseases, and developmental delays, it has been suggested that lacking certain nutrients can lead to weight gain and obesity. One reason for this may relate to the way in which deficiencies can cause intense cravings. The brain’s appetite center has receptors that detect specific nutrient levels such as iron, vitamin D, and B vitamins. If we are deficient in one or more essential nutrient the brain will signal a need that can translate into excessive, relentless, and irresistible cravings - often for high calorie, carb rich foods that can lead to weight gain. Deficiencies can also influence weight gain by causing a slowed metabolism and lack of energy, which both result in less energy burned and more stored as fat.
An absence of true awareness when eating can contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food. Michelle Biton, an author and counselor with a Master’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition and Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, says that when establishing a healthy relationship with food we must “understand the triggers and temptations that prompt us to eat reactively” and that “out of that self-awareness, we can begin to alter our eating habits and work towards eating for physical reasons instead of emotional ones”. Often the failure to make changes in diet is blamed on a lack of willpower when instead it is more a lack of present awareness when we eat and think about food.
To learn more about Mindful Eating, read the many other posts within the Mindful Practice category.