In today’s hamster-wheel – and often frenetically-paced – world, many people choose convenience foods and wolf them down…as I, myself, have done in the past. While it can be difficult to take time to slow down and really enjoy a meal, there are many rewards that make mindful eating a truly worthwhile endeavor.
At its core, eating mindfully is about being present while you’re eating (not multi-tasking or watching television at the same time): being aware of what you’re putting into your mouth, savoring it, chewing it well, and eating slowly. There is a host of reasons why adequately chewing food is important; among them, properly chewing food helps digestion and slows down the eating process so that satiety signals have time to be processed.
I’ve been an unintentional speed eater for years. In fact, I dislike eating with others because I’m always the first person finished with a meal, which can be awkward when a friend or colleague is still working their way through theirs at a more leisurely (normal?) pace. I just put my food away, ready to move on to other pursuits. Hardly mindful eating, and I frequently found myself feeling a bit too full because by the time satiety signals – which take about 20 minutes – were sent to my brain, I’d already surpassed that point due to the time lag.
Recently, however, I decided to try eating more mindfully: eating at a table without other distractions, and, importantly, chewing my food at least 30 times (aiming for 60, if possible). It was challenging, at first, to remember not to swallow until the predetermined number of chews had occurred, then became easier with practice; in fact, I typically end up more in the 45 chews per bite range now. When I do swallow, the food is thoroughly masticated – basically pulverized into mush.
- First, I noticed that I now need to focus on just eating, rather than trying to chat while eating a meal. Talking seems to encourage premature swallowing, so I just eat now. In doing so, I can really taste the food and appreciate the complexity of flavors…it’s really an experience, and it makes me feel more appreciative of the meal.
- Second, in slowing down, I’ve realized that I had previously been serving too-generous portions; with the new chewing regimen in place, I now only end up eating about half what I had previously before I feel full. And I don’t become hungry sooner than before, even though I’m not consuming as much.
- Third, I feel good because I’m consuming less, which translates to spending less money on food, having a smaller impact on the planet, and feeling lighter and more lively because my digestive system isn’t having to expend so much energy in digestion.
Interested in improving your digestion and eating more mindfully? Check out Jessica Porter’s 7 Day Chew Challenge for tips on how to achieve “effortless mindfulness”. And chew your food!