Confession – I. Love. Food. Too often food is painted as a villain; love it too much and bad things will happen. Society makes us believe food-love will result in extra inches on your waistline.
Let me put your mind to rest and bust this food myth: Food is your friend, so spend some time with it. Savor it.
My love for food actually does my body a favor. Even as a child I was always the last person at the dinner table. Not because I was picky, but because I was a slow eater. While my family moved on with their evening, I was still there at the table savoring my food.
Without knowing it, I was practicing mindful eating. Most people have to find a level of self-control to make it happen, but I was the odd-ball who did it naturally because I LOVE food.
Eating fast is unhealthy; you get fat and you wreck your digestion. Eating mindfully and at a slower pace is essential to creating a healthier relationship with your food.
Here’s what you’ll get by slowing down and eating with intention:
- The process of mindful eating actually increases digestion leading to better energy.
- It gives a more complete sense of satisfaction for a positive mental state.
- Mindful eating allows you to feel full at the correct time thus avoiding lethargic, bloated afternoons.
The struggle to slow down while eating is a real one, so I’ve got a few simple health hacks to help this process along.
Hack #1) Become a Better Listener by Becoming a Better Eater
Change How and Where You Eat to Disrupt Negative Eating Behaviors.
Put down your fork down between each bite. And, don’t pick it up again until you’ve swallowed and taken at least one breath.
This is harder than it sounds, as most of us employ the conveyor belt method at meal time. You know…the continuous un-interrupted feed.
Eat lunch with another person. Build a relationship by having a creative conversation between bites. The main objective must remain the meal, but if you’re purposeful about listening, you’ll have plenty of time to chew, be thoughtful and intentional.
Develop habits that reinforce your body’s need to be intentional during meal time.
Hack #2) Get the Most Out of Your Day by Getting The Most Out Of Your Food
Count the number of times you chew. Seriously. Count.
Chewing less than 10 times is hard on your stomach. 20 is about right.
And, the more your food broken down, the more nutrition actually passes through your gut wall.
Full confession, I’ve been known to chew up to 50 times. Crazy, I know. My in-laws couldn’t believe how long I took to eat when they first met me, which prompted a secret chew count.
In my defense, chewing is a crucial step in the digestive process that breaks down the food. And, eating too fast drowns out your body’s communication signals that tell your brain how much food you need.
So, slow down, chew more. Keeping a tally on how much you are chewing forces you to be aware of your body’s needs.
Fun Fact: under chewed food is a leading cause of bloating.
Hack #3) Only Eat Photogenic Foods
Focus on your food. As in, actually look at it.
Don’t read an email, walk down the hall or otherwise “multi-task”.
You’ve earned the right to this meal; your body needs it. Allow yourself to take in the colors on your plate. Eating is a sensory process that should be engaging more than just your tastebuds; digestion starts the moment you smell tasty food.
The visual experience of your meal should have you reaching for your phone to snap a photo to share. Healthy food is irresistibly photogenic! If your food doesn’t have your eyeballs marveling at the beautiful colors on your plate, your not eating healthy enough.
In fact, the deeper the color of your food the more benefits there are to the body: essential nutrients and minerals that will provide you with sustainable energy during the hectic demands of the week.
The sense of satisfaction after you eat will multiply if your brain actually receives the message that you’ve had a meal.
In your fast paced world, slowing down to eat seems unnecessary and nearly impossible. In reality, you’ll gain more than you lose by following these little tricks.
What can a mindful meal mean for you?
It means your body will take in more nutrition from the same food because you optimized your digestive process.
It means you won’t over eat, because the right signals make their way to your brain at the proper time.
It means bloating is a thing of the past because your GI track won’t be in crisis mode trying to do more than its fair share of work.
Take the challenge. Use these hacks for 3 meals and notice how you feel, how much you eat (or don’t eat), and how you enjoy a simple meal to its fullest possibility.