There’s one in every family.
In my family it happens to be my dad. He’s the one who can turn any meal into an all day affair. Not because of the endless preparation involved in cooking a family feast. Except for the occasional turkey, he doesn’t cook.
He’s just a slow eater. Regardless if he’s the first to start eating, he’s always the last to finish.
Turns out, that’s a good thing.
As an ACE-certified fitness professional now pursuing a coaching certificate in Dynamic Eating Psychology, I’m fascinated by many aspects of eating I’ve never considered before that have literally shaped my life.
I’m currently reading a book by Marc David called The Slow Down Diet. David asserts that it’s not just what you eat but how you eat that determines your body’s ability to digest and metabolize food.
If you eat when you are stressed, distracted, unaware of what or how much you’re putting in your mouth, and you eat as quickly as possible, is it any wonder you suffer heartburn, indigestion, bloating, constipation, or any number of digestive issues in response?
When your body is concerned with threats to your well-being, the last thing it is going to think about is digesting the doughnut that somehow found its way into abyss known as your belly. Instead of extracting all the nutrients it can from the protein, fruits, and veggies you wisely fed it, your body is going to be busy secreting stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline into your circulatory system. Blood flow will be rerouted to your brain for quick thinking and to your arms and legs, should you find the need to fight or flee.
Can you see how continually operating in survival mode can give you gas or at least irritable bowels? On the one hand you must eat to survive, but on the other, constant stress, speed, and failure to engage in the present moment will see to it that you don’t.
Today’s post is not intended to freak you out or give you another “should” to add to your “should do” list. I’d merely like to make a suggestion I think is both doable and enjoyable.
Here’s the good news. You don’t have to change your diet (yet!). That may come later. This week’s challenge is simply to try this exercise in eating awareness as many times as possible.
Here’s how it works:
- Notice what you are eating. Notice the texture, the color, the smell, the size, any especially endearing quality about what you are about to put in your mouth.
- Notice why you are eating. You love it? It was all that was in the frig? You are nervous, bored, or otherwise in need of stimulation, sweetness, acceptance, or love? (You weren’t expecting to dive deep into the psychological underbelly of eating quite so quickly, were you? Pack your bags. That’s where we’re headed.)
- Take your time eating. Before you take a single bite, breathe. Even if you are ravenous, especially if you are ravenous, breathe. Then take a bite. Chew. Chew some more. Breathe. Repeat. Follow my dad’s example. Be the last person at the table to finish eating.
- Eat in a pleasant environment. No matter how much you love your car or office, do not eat an experimental meal in your car, at your desk, or after having an especially emotional exchange with your credit card company. Get out the china. Use the special silverware. Break out the wine glasses. Find the cloth napkins cleverly cinched up in the napkin rings you received as a housewarming gift. Do whatever it takes to make this meal meaningful.
- Luxuriate in the present moment. Maybe you are surrounded by someone who makes you laugh, lights your fire, or unleashes your creativity. Perhaps you’re alone at last. Whatever the case, keep this in mind. Pleasure is a nutrient too. Don’t squander the moments you’ve carved out to nourish yourself with crazy-making activities or crazy-making people. Whether it’s fifteen minutes or a few hours, take the time to savor your meal, the conversation or silence, and your surroundings.
I am confident you can do the above 5 steps without too much effort. I also have a strong suspicion these steps have the power to revolutionize the way you eat and feel.
I’d love to hear what you discover.
Share if you dare below.