When it comes to creating a healthy diet and lifestyle often we get stuck in what to eat, but just as important if not even more important, is how we eat. Even if you are eating kale. Eat it really fast and its really not going to be that great for you. So many of us are in the habit of doing at least one other thing while we eat (for many its four other things): reading, checking Instagram, listening to music, texting, scrolling Facebook, responding to emails, watching TV, talking to others (in person or on the phone) etc...
I'd have to say that I am one of the worst at this. I have always been a fast eater and that has not improved with all these added distractions and activities to do while eating. So I am working on changing this as well because I know the time I physically felt best in my adult life, it was when I was consciously eating slower and actually chewed my food.
Why does slowing down, chewing, and experiencing the meal make such a big difference?
First of all when we eat fast and without awareness we tend to overeat. We often aren't even aware of what we are eating, we miss the experience of eating. Then we want to eat more because we don't remember doing it.
Also when we eat fast we are not aware that we are full, it takes a few minutes for the message, 'I am full' to reach the brain. So if we don't allow for this we keep eating until we are stuffed. Then our digestion becomes taxed because it has to work harder to break down all the improperly chewed food that is overly packed into our stomach. Which then means we will have less energy because our body is using it up doing extra the processing. This, overtime, can cause major digestion problems, which then can lead to a multitude of other health issues, as health is determined by the state of our digestive system. We also can gain unneeded weight.
Health problems? Low energy? Weight gain? All good reasons to start chewing!!!
It is also so interesting that an act that keeps us alive and running, we hardly give the time of day to. We cannot do all the things that we want to do in our lives like play our favorite sport, be creative, be present with our kids, friends and family, get work done, and give back without eating. We treat it like it is a nuisance. Well I am going to work on changing my habits around how I eat, are you in?
The toughest part is remembering so here are some tips on making mindful eating a habit:
Pick one meal a day that you will start practicing mindful eating. Sometimes we think, ‘ Ah I can’t eat every meal slowly, what about family? friends? TV?!’ The key is to start small. Lunch is often a great time to practice, but choose which meal would be the easiest to focus on and start with making that sacred everyday. If you forget, try again tomorrow. Don't stop because you missed one day. Keep going. I am going to start with my breakfast, because I have a tendency to check the internet in the morning and I think it would be a good time to sit and chill and focus on just eating.
Set a reminder on your phone. Take a lunch break every day at 12:30? Set an alarm at 12:40 that says: CHEW!. I set my clock for every weekday to ring to 12:17 that says, 'CHEW YOUR FOOD!' and for special encouragement: I downloaded a Chewbacca ringtone.
Have a designated eating spot. If everyday you eat at your desk you are training yourself to eat and work. Even if you try to eat mindfully and to not look at your computer, it will be harder. Having a designated eating place where all you do is eat, automatically reminds you to eat mindfully. (And keep your work and phone away from your eating place!) Bonus: make a Chewbacca place mat! My designated spot is my kitchen table, far from my desk!
Eat outside. I find when I eat outside I really enjoy my food more and I want to eat slower. I want to savor my time outside before I have to go back inside again. It also realigns us with the rhythm of nature which slows us down. On those sunny warm days, I have a table on my deck where I eat my lunch.
Put the food down. Whether you are eating food you hold like a burrito or sandwich or using utensils, put it down between each bite. I end up shoveling my food in when I don’t set it down. It is too easy to take more bites while I am still working on my previous one. I need to work on this one. Put the fork down, Jenna!!! (hopefully my chew reminder will also remind me to do this too.)
Have gratitude before you begin. Take a deep breath and be thankful that what you are eating made it all the way to you. We truly are lucky that we have food on our plates. I am going to start taking a moment to say, 'thank you' before I eat my lunch.
When you eat with others, make it a game to not be the first one done. I love doing this, it is a little game that only I know I am playing!
The seemingly simple act of eating mindfully can really make a big difference in our health, so which action/s will you focus on implementing for the next week?
Already a slow eater? Share how you did it/ do it below!