The Case for Slow Eating
In the iconic 1990s movie Clueless, Alicia Silverstone taught me that “Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.” Now as a celebrity turned healthy food advocate, I recently watched an interview with Alicia where she imparted the equally valuable advice to “Eat slowly and chew your food.” Now I don’t know if I’d take all my life advice from Cher Horowitz but she was right about highschool and gosh darnit, it looks like I’m going to listen to her on this one too.
I am SO guilty of spending time cooking up a beautiful meal only to inhale it within seconds afterwards. People marvel at the speed at which I can take down a meal. I attribute it to being a nurse and having only a few minutes on lunch breaks to stuff food in my face, but I can’t be sure. What I do know is that it’s a habit I’m trying hard to break for many reasons.
The process of digestion starts when you simply look at the food in front of you. Your body begins to secrete saliva and enzymes in preparation to digest and break down the food you are about to put in your body. By taking the time to slow down, look at, and appreciate the beautiful food in front of you before digging in you are actually setting yourself up to digest and absorb nutrients more efficiently.
It takes time for your stomach to send signals to your brain to indicate that you are full. Devouring your food quickly doesn’t allow enough time for these signals to travel meaning that you keep eating, and eating and eating FOREVER, or until you satisfy your hunger. Eating slowly will cause you to actually take in fewer calories during one meal, and you’ll feel happier doing it.
Slowing down during a meal makes you more present to the whole process rather than shoving something in your mouth impulsively and regretting it later. By paying attention to our food we are more able to appreciate the varying flavors, textures and feelings it can produce. Eating with more presence allows you to enjoy the experience of meals and the company you share them with. Don’t we all deep down want to be beautiful, sophisticated Italians who linger over long meals at giant tables with family and wine? We do. Here are some ideas for how to slow it down…
Chew more. Aim for 20 chews per mouthful. Not only does this action force you to slow down, but it helps break down food to aid in the overall digestive process.
Drink water during your meal. Water helps to fill your stomach while you’re eating so you’ll feel full sooner. It also gives you a break from shoveling that food in.
Put your fork down. Just put it down. Take a moment to sip your wine, talk to friends, and enjoy the experience of nourishing your body with a meal.
Practice mindful eating. You may feel like a big weirdo, but try this exercise in mindful eating. Take the next thing you eat, say a blueberry, and look at it, smell it and touch it. Then take one small bite to pay attention to the taste and texture of it. Seriously, do NOTHING but focus on eating this blueberry in its entirety. Then maybe never do this ever again, but you get the idea. Focusing on being present when eating allows you more connection to your food and your body to identify when you are hungry or full, or how certain foods make you feel.
So practice slowing it wayyyyy dowwwwwn this week and see you how feel!
Send me an email and let me know how this works for you! I would love to hear how it changes the way you think about your meals.
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xx Christina Tidwell MN, RN