Saturday, November 1, 2014

Stop. Think. Chew. And, Stop Again.

We live in a world of multiple screens, multi-tasking, no time, and plenty of stress. Too often, we eat on the run, sometimes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, way too often, meals are fast food, as in eaten- fast food (even fast food is wolfed-down fast). Here’s the problem.

The whole process of digestion starts with chewing.  Chewing breaks food into manageable bites, making it easy to swallow. You can’t swallow much solid food whole. Chewing thoroughly releases saliva that coats your food with digestive enzymes—which actually begin to digest the food before you swallow it. At the same time, those same enzymes begin digesting the carbohydrates and fats, meaning less work for your stomach. If food is swallowed un-chewed, or not chewed thoroughly, important nutrients remain locked in the fragments. These fragments in turn, create an environment in the colon that can contribute to digestive distress—bacterial overgrowth, gas, and bloating.

The act of just seeing your food causes your brain to send signals to the pancreas and stomach to secrete digestive acids and enzymes that are essential to digestion. The longer your food has contact with your taste and smell receptors and the longer you chew each bite, the stronger those signals become. Strong signals mean more digestive molecules, less indigestion, and superior nutrient absorption. Enough Biology 101.

We enjoy food. We’re supposed to enjoy it. And, if we slow down and appreciate what we eat, we end up eating less. This is being mindful of what and how we eat. And, eating more slowly gives your body a chance to tell your mind that it’s full, so that you stop eating before you go overboard. Consider trying the following tips along with your next meal.
  • Don’t eat in front of distractions such as the TV or computer, or while driving.
  • Give yourself enough time to eat—at least 20-30 minutes to eat the meal.
  • Be mindful while you eat. Notice the smell, temperature, texture, color, and subtle flavor differences of each food you consume.
  • Take smaller portions and take a 5 minute a break before serving yourself seconds.
  • Put your fork down after each bite.
  • Eat slowly, chewing each bite as many times as necessary to pulverize any texture.
  • If you’re eating in a group, challenge yourself to be the last to finish.
In addition to the physical benefits of eating mindfully, if you allow yourself to slow down and chew thoroughly, you’ll find yourself eating less and enjoying your food more.