I like to compare eating to a conversation. In both cases we are taking something in. If you are casually discussing with someone, you are either talking or listening in a relaxed manner. You let the other person’s words flow into you: there is no stress involved and your body, therefore, is calm. If your interlocutor starts saying something hurtful or that you disagree with, those harsh words will come in and make your body tense up, it will bring anger inside of you, your stomach will contract etc. the list of symptoms are numerous depending on how virulent your interlocutor was. Words affect us not only emotionally but also physically.

Think about it: the same holds true for food. If you eat quietly or while enjoying the company of a good friend, your food will be welcome and will easily be digested. However, if you eat while you are stressed, your body will no longer be in a state to welcome that food since you feel tense, your stomach is in a knot and your attention is focused on something else. So, from now on, when eating, keep these questions in mind:

How are you having your meals? Are you enjoying them in a nice relaxed setting or are you always distracted and busy while eating? Are your meals synonymous of peace or chaos? How long did you take to eat your meal?

Why should you chew your food, anyway?

  • It keeps your teeth, gums and tongue healthy
  • By chewing thoroughly, you are being “stomach friendly” since you will be helping with digestion and you will also be allowing nutrients to be extracted in a maximal way. The goal is to swallow your food when it’s as mushy or liquid as possible. Remember it takes time and requires practice.
  • When you chew your food, it triggers the production of substances (such as hydrochloric acid) that help speed up the digestive process.
  • When eating fast, you don’t give your body enough time to realize when it is no longer hungry and so you end up eating more. By simply slowing down you will avoid overeating.
  • Giving your body a chance to digest food properly will do wonders on how you feel after the meal: chances are you will have fewer indigestions and heartburns, you will be going to the bathroom to eliminate more often and you will feel empowered and energized!

How many times should you chew every bite?

 I am not into counting how many times you chew, but just to give you a general idea, it is said that you should chew your food approximately 30 times. But let’s be realistic here and use our common sense: one should chew according to the foods one eats. You don’t need to chew a green bean as much as a piece of steak! So, how de we know? Observe the consistency of the food you are eating: some will need approximately 10 chews (such as a soft peach or a bite of watermelon) and others around 25-30 (such as hard vegetable or meat).

The best thing to do is to make sure that what you put into your mouth is already tiny. Make use of your knife by « chop, chop, chopping » it all up and keep your fork light! Note that if your bites are tiny, you will probably have to chew fewer times.

It is best to make sure that what you put into your mouth is already tiny. Make use of your knife by “chop, chop, chopping” it all up and keep your fork light! Note that if your bites are tiny, you will probably have to chew fewer times. Once the food is in your mouth, place your fork and knife down as a reminder that you have to slow down and chew.

 

« Make use of your knife and keep your fork light »

“It’s as important to space your bites as it is to chew them completely.”

 

When do we know if it’s OK to swallow your food? If you can still feel parts or little chunks of food in your mouth then you haven’t chewed enough. As I said before, we’re aiming for a totally mushy, almost liquid texture here!

Let’s share a meal!

Let’s share a meal and eat mindfullyEating mindfully implies being totally aware of the whole process. Ideally, it means to:

•Close your eyes and take a few moments to sit in silence and breathe quietly and deeply just before taking your first bite.

•Open your eyes and observe the food that’s on your plate: the colors, the shapes, take in the smells.

•Once the food is in your mouth, take the time to really taste and savor it: feel the texture on your tongue. How do you like it? Is it hot or cold? Is it spicy or sweet? Is it smooth or crunchy? What’s the flavor like?

•Enjoy your meal and the company that is with you. It should be a moment of sharing, meaning that TVs and all electronic devices should be turned off. Why not have your kids come and help you in the kitchen. When at the table, let each one of you talk a few minutes about an event of their day. This isn’t the right time to talk about homework, grades or be reproachful about things that haven’t been done about the house. It’s a moment to share, to be happy.

•Take your time. Chew thoroughly.

•Pay attention to your body and what it is saying. How are you feeling right now? If you are stressed, place down your utensils and breathe deeply. Relax. Breathe again. If you are calm, how do you feel? Are you ravenous and feeling empty insideor are you starting to feel satisfied? Are certain signs starting to tell you that you are full or have you passed that point and your stomach is already beginning to feel painful? Gradually learn to be more aware, take notice of how you feel and listen to the different signs. Include them in your meal process.

•Leave the table feeling just right: that would be ideal! In other words, you are no longer hungry, you have energy and you feel invigorated and ready to handle what you have to do after your meal whether it be to get back to work, giving a bath to the kids or walking the dog.

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