Are you ever guilty of standing at the kitchen sink shoveling your food into your mouth? Do you mindlessly eat why surfing the web or watching TV? Do you often eat in the car on the way to your next errand?
It has become standard practice for many people to go through their busy day hurrying along to get it all done never stopping to sit down and really ENJOY their meal. Eating has become another mindless thing we do. I’m guilty of it too. I have 2 kids and have lots going on in my life. Eating on the go happens here at times. I get it.
Life seems to be in fast mode these days. Fast-paced living with fast foods, chaotic lives, and increasing stress. This all leaves little time for actual LIVING LIFE. And for connecting. It is my humble opinion that life is meant to be lived, enjoyed and cherished. Life is too short to be doing things that you don’t enjoy. It’s within our power to create a life that works, that nourishes and feeds us, and that feels satisfying.
But can we bring a little more awareness to our meals? Many of us spend a great amount of time and energy making sure we are getting the right kinds of foods, but can we extend that a little further to make sure that we are actually taking the time to enjoy and savor our food? Maybe taking a look at the benefits of slowing down can motivate us……
Benefits of Eating Slowly
- Better Digestion ~ Rushing through your meals can lead to indigestion and stomach upset. The slower you eat, the more you will chew your food, and this will lead to better digestion of your food.
- Greater Enjoyment of Your Food ~ It’s hard to enjoy your food if it goes by too quickly. Slowing down will help you to actually relish all the flavors of your meal. Your food will become more interesting as you experience all the smells, textures, and tastes.
- Connection with your natural hunger and fullness signals ~ If you regularly gobble down your food, you become disconnected from your body’s own way of recognizing your satiety. You may lose the ability to really tell when you are hungry and full. This may lead to eating too much or at time when you are not actually hungry. If you slow your eating and practice listening to your body’s physical signals before and after meals, you can reconnect with your natural hunger and fullness signals.
- Less Stress ~ Making eating a mindfullness practice can make meals a time for renewal and relaxation. Be in the moment, rather than rushing through a meal thinking about what you need to do next.
- Lose Weight ~ It takes 20 minutes for the message to get from your stomach to your brain that there is enough food there. If you eat too fast, you pile on the calories before your body has a chance to tell you that you don’t need them. Leisurely eating allows ample time to trigger the signal from your brain that you are full. And feeling full translates into eating less.
Tips for Mindful Eating
- Sit down to eat ~ Make eating an experience to enjoy. Think of it as a “nourishment break” for yourself. Remove distraction like TV or the computer and play some music and light some candles. Let your parasympathetic nervous system kick in so your body can produce sufficient stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Taking time out to feed yourself will leave you recharged, refueled, and relaxed.
- Chew ~ Digestion starts in the mouth. Chewing your food properly will make less work for your stomach, and you may find yourself suffering from less indigestion. Take small bites and chew your food thoroughly. Your saliva is rich in amylase and protease, which are essential for breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins. Chewing is necessary to expose as much surface area as possible on the food particles so that enzymes can begin digestion.
- Put down your fork ~ It’s easy to just shovel it in when you have a fork in your hand. Try putting it down between bites to give yourself the chance to savor what is already in your mouth. Many of us automatically take another bite before finishing the first. This creates an unhurried, relaxed vibe to your meal. Because it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full, try to stretch your meals out for at least 20 minutes. And if you finish your meal before the 20-minute mark, wait until the whole 20 minutes have elapsed before deciding if you need more to eat.
- Be grateful ~ Taking a moment to give thanks for the abundance of food we eat every day and for all of the blessings in our lives creates a bit of ritual in our day, regardless of your religious or spiritual tendencies. At our household during meal times, we take turns saying one thing that we are grateful for. It’s a great way to connect with each other and to remind us how blessed we are. I don’t know about you, but I feel happier when I feel grateful.
- Be a social eater ~ Use the dinner table as a time to discuss your day with your family and friends. You can’t shovel in food while having a conversation (well, not at least without totally grossing someone out.) Not only will meal times be more enjoyable, but you will improve your relationships and feel more connected.
- Don’t eat when you are starving ~ You are more likely to eat quickly when you are famished. Try not to let too many hours go by between meals. And carry around an easy snack like almonds or homemade bars to tide you over until meal time.
- Enjoy and savor every bite ~ Pay attention to your meal and make the most of it. Savor the aroma and texture of the meal. Consider how long it took to prepare, and prolong the enjoyment of eating it.
So the next time it’s time to feed yourself, take a moment, take a breath, and take a seat. Savor the moment. Your body will thank you.