Sunday, April 20, 2014

Small Step Sunday: Chew on This

I like food. That should be obvious from the content of my posts. Wellness begins and ends with what you do to your body, and food is a huge part of that. I don't believe one diet or one macronutrient/calorie target is right for everyone. I think we should all focus on eating whole foods and not ingesting things with ingredients we can't identify, but that's where I draw the line.

Discussions of diet and health usually only focus on what you eat or when you eat, but often forget HOW you eat. I've talked about mindful eating in some of my other posts, and I think it's so important that I wanted to offer it up as my weekly wellness tip. One of the key behaviors I've changed in my eating is that I now take time to eat slowly and chew my food more.

When I was in junior high we had 20 minutes to get to the cafeteria, find a seat, and eat lunch. I trace my habit of wolfing down food back to this key time in my life (in high school we got 10 extra minutes - not a huge help!). I used to be able to put down a plate of dinner in about 5 minutes. Of course it only makes sense that if you eat that quickly, your body doesn't have time to register that you've eaten. It hasn't started breaking the food down. Therefore, you still feel hungry and eat more.

It took me a long time to realize how destructive my habit of eating fast with minimal chewing was. I am one of those unfortunate souls that feels hungry most of the time, and I've found that when I make an effort to eat more slowly and really take time to chew my food I feel more satisfied at the end of a meal. This can be difficult to implement so I recommend picking one meal a day (ideally the one where you have the most time to eat so you can get used to the habit), and force yourself to chew at least 10 more times than you normally would.

I take a half hour to eat each meal from breakfast smoothies to dinner plates. The slow chewing helps a lot. I used to be able to eat a baby carrot in about 2 seconds, now I can chew that sucker for at least 30. It often brings out a stronger flavor in the food. I also make a habit to put down my fork, spoon, chopsticks between each bite. In summary, with some more tips:

1. Chew your food more, add at least 10 chews per bite when you start
2. Put down your utensils between bites
3. Aim for 30 minutes of eating time, and adjust your bite sizes dependent on this
4. Add a handful of raw veggies to a meal, and eat one bite of them between bites of the rest of your meal
5. Take time before each bite to think about all the people that made your meal possible (farmers, distributors, retailers, and whoever cooked the meal) and send them a silent thanks
6. Close your eyes while you chew and savor the delicious flavors

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