Eat with your mind

Living and growing up in the fast pace of New York, I’ve come to expect that ten minutes is too long to wait for a subway, five minutes is too long to wait for a coffee order and half an hour is too much time to spend eating a meal….wait, what? Too long to spend eating a meal? Between work, school, social activities, and other daily responsibilities, we so often find ourselves rushing through the acts of everyday life. Eating is just another thing that we, well, rush! We think about a million things except for the taste of our food as we shovel it into our mouths. A simple step that we all can take to improve our health is to slow it down. Studies show that slowing down eating leads to improved digestive health and increased satiety - not to mention peace of mind and a feeling of being fully present in our otherwise hectic lives.

Open wide
In Nutrition 101, one of the first things we learned was that the first step in digestion takes place orally, or in our mouths. I was amazed. I had always I thought digestion began in the stomach! As we chew, we start to physically break apart food, increasing its surface area so it is easier to digest and break down. The chewing action also sends a signal to our digestive organs like our pancreas and gallbladder to start to release enzymes in preparation for breaking down the food properly. In addition, our saliva contains “digestive enzymes” that initially start breaking apart carbohydrates. If we speed up this step, we disrupt the synchrony and harmony of the digestive process, often leading to heartburn, bloating, gas and, for some people, diarrhea.

Open your mind
Do you know it takes the stomach about 20 minutes to send a signal to the brain saying that there is food in it? As a result, you are more likely to eat larger portions if you engulf your food. Once you slow down your eating, you will become more aware of the food in your stomach and you probably will eat less. Not to mention, you will savor the flavors and textures in your mouth more, leading to increased satiety and satisfaction.

I challenge you to try this mindfulness exercise adapted from

  1. Take 1 chocolate kiss.
  2. Hold it in the palm of your hands.
  3. Examine it as if you have never seen it before.
  4. Explore the texture with your fingers.
  5. Hold it beneath your nose and inhale the aroma.
  6. Slowly bring it to your mouth.
  7. Place it in your mouth without chewing it.
  8. Explore the taste, texture and sensations of having it in your mouth.
  9. When you are ready prepare to chew the Hershey kiss noticing where you will bite down before you do.
  10. Take 2 bites and notice the texture/flavor changes but do not swallow.
  11. Finally, swallow the kiss.

It is amazing how much more satisfaction you will get out of that one Hershey kiss than those cookies you ate last night! Practice this daily and notice the changes that ensue. While it may not be practical to eat every meal like this, consciously chew every bite and savor the taste of the food in your mouth. Bon appetite!