The Art of Eating: Slow Down, Enjoy Your Meal or Fall Sick
When was the last time you peacefully ‘sat’ down for a meal and only concentrated on one action: EATING! Hard to remember right?
Sitting down for a meal is a ritual that’s quickly going out of style and has become one of the many tasks we do on a day-to-day basis . Yes its an important activity, but just to satiate your hunger, not to nourish your body. We find it’s better to save that time and use it for something else, maybe check a few pending mails, drive to work, check social media notifications or catch up on a missed episode on Netflix!
Forget about connecting with the food or notice the various textures or ingredients in it, we don’t even bother to chew! Our attention is either on the second bite or a task we are simultaneously doing, not on the bite that’s in our mouth.
One of the main reasons for overeating is getting disconnected with food. Take a tub of popcorn for example. Its so easy to finish the entire tub at a movie theatre. We mindlessly stuff our mouth, while eyes are glued to the screen. Try finishing that tub all by yourself while seated at a dining table.
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HOW You Eat Affects Your Health
HOW we eat shapes our digestion, cravings, portions, nutrient absorption, weight loss or maintenance, satisfaction level and is as important as WHAT we eat. A plate of dal-chaawal if eaten with peace, gratitude and proper chewing will be metabolised by the body in a completely different manner as compared to when its eaten in a jiffy with little or no attention.
So what is the Art of Eating?
WHERE You Eat Matters
The first thing that matters is the surrounding/environment. Eating is a type of meditation and to be able to deeply connect with food, you want an environment that favours it – like soft music, happy and pleasant conversations or silence. One of the best states to eat a meal is ‘rest and digest’ – Not noisy roads, honking cars, buzzing phones, lunch meetings and disturbing conversations.
If you have no option but to sit in a noisy surrounding, plug in your earphones to avoid outside chaos that affects your mental state. A restaurant in US conducted a study and found that customers who dined under dim lights and mellow music ate 175 calories lesser than at a more noisy and typical restaurant environment!
PACE Your Meals
Next comes the pace of eating. In a perfect world, you want to give each meal a minimum of 20 minutes to complete. This is because it roughly takes 20 minutes for your brain to activate its satiety centre and declare “I'm full.”
Another benefit of slowing down is that it automatically lets us chew every bite. Chewing is a very important process of digestion. This is when large particles of food are broken down into smaller pieces and processed with the help of saliva.
Saliva by nature is alkaline and rich in digestive enzymes namely Salivary Amylase (for carb digestion) and Lipase ( for fat digestion ). The process of chewing is also a signal for the stomach to release HCl for further digestion.
Now think of how many times you have blamed a certain food for not being easily digestible. Just the way you eat can affect its digestion process! There are so many people who complain of acidity, indigestion, bloating, and even IBS. The numbers are likely to grow as we lose touch with the art of eating.
Eat With All Your Senses
Another very important aspect of the eating is to engage all your 5 senses: Eyes, Ears, Nose, Tongue and Skin. It entails seeing the food and noticing the different colours on plate, hearing the crunch of carrots or slurp of the soup, sensing the aroma of spices and herbs, feeling the thermal sensation of food with fingers, the warmth of it and appreciate its texture.
Its sad that people these days consider eating with hands unhygienic and tacky. Eating with your hands helps you connect with food. On contact with food, the nerve endings get activated and signal the stomach that you are about to eat. One becomes more aware of the process of eating and that helps gain a better control over portions.
All of this is why being in total sync with food is so important, to get the most of what you are eating. So relax, breathe easy and really focus on s-l-o-w-i-n-g down. It will feel weird and probably a little uncomfortable initially. But it’ll ensure good health so keep at it.
(Luke Coutinho is M.D. Alternative Medicine (Integrative & Lifestyle) & Holistic Nutritionist. Luke treats patients with disease and specializes in cancer with a holistic and integrative approach worldwide.)
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