How long does it take you to eat a meal? 5 minutes, 10, 20? You may have learned that it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you are full. Many of us don’t spend enough time eating to wait for that message. In addition to preventing overeating, eating more slowly can have other significant benefits.
Slowing down for digestive health
Do you ever feel bloated or gassy after a meal or throughout your day? There are many reasons why that may occur, many of which can be treated with the best nutrition for you. But, also consider when you eat quickly you may be swallowing air at the same time. Imagine what a bunch of extra air does for your GI tract. Gas and bloating can equal too much air, as simple as that. A big benefit of slowing down your eating is to feel better when the meal is done and the rest of the day.
Speed eating in the U.S.
A sad state of things – that we actually have contests to see how fast we can eat. But, truly – in the U.S. the speed of our eating is reflected in our awareness of hunger. An interesting study conducted by Brian Wansink and described in his book Mindless Eating – Why We Eat More Than We Think surveyed individuals in Paris and in Chicago to evaluate how they decided it was time to stop eating. What they found was those in Paris stopped eating because they no longer felt hungry. In contrast, the Chicagoan stopped eating because the television show they were watching was over or their plate was empty. According to this, we aren’t paying any attention to our level of hunger – we are relying on external cues to determine if we should continue eating or not.
Slowing down to taste your food
Food is delicious! At least the food I eat is. If you find you finish a meal and haven’t really enjoyed it, then you have wasted time and that wonderful food you have been given. Try this tasting exercise:
• Take a small piece of dark chocolate (or something else delicious) and hold it in your hand.
• Look at the chocolate like you have never seen it before – noticing the color and shape.
• Touch it, noticing the texture of the chocolate.
• Smell it, inhaling deeply to really enjoy the aroma.
• Now place the chocolate in your mouth and feel it in your mouth without chewing it. Let it slowly melt in your mouth enjoying every last bit.
Do you ever eat a meal like this? Perhaps time does not permit every bite to be savored to this extent, but could you benefit from practicing even a small portion of a mindfulness approach to eating? What if you really smelled your food and enjoyed the complex aromas, really looked at your food and it’s beautiful colors, really tasted your food and enjoyed every bit before you swallowed it? Do you think you would enjoy your meal more? Would you be more appreciative of the food you have? How might this impact your food choices, eating habits and even other areas of your life?
Slowing down to enjoy life
Practicing slower eating will help your body digest food more easily and will allow you to find greater pleasure in the food you eat. But not only will it have those benefits, practicing mindfulness in eating may be a start to practicing greater mindfulness in other areas of your life. Do you take a deep breath and smell the fresh air and really look at the trees blowing in the wind when you are on a walk? Or do you rather spend that time also on your phone or doing something else? Do you really listen to your kids or your partner when they are talking to you, or are you half participating in the moment? If you have kids I am sure you can appreciate how quickly they change – soak up every moment that you can to enjoy their bright eyes and precious smiles.