by Dr. Sarah Anne Edwards, LCSW, PhD
In this fast-paced world, too often we miss out on the value and pleasure of eating. We grab “fast food” and “gobble it down,” one big bite at a time, probably while doing something else. Talking, texting, driving watching TV, working, and on social media. As a result, we tend to overeat or even abuse food because our mind is elsewhere when we eat. We are eating mindlessly and miss the chance to notice that we’re eating and enjoy it. We also miss the chance to properly prepare the food we’re eating for metabolism.
Here is an alternative.
Start by selecting food you like that is hopefully as healthy as possible. This article is about the process of eating, so we won’t dwell here on what’s best to eat. That’s for another time. You can choose this alternative for a better eating experience even when eating “fast food” that unfortunately usually isn’t very healthy for us.
Set aside at least 15-20 minutes to eat a meal. Eating on the run is more important than not eating at all, but to fully benefit and enjoy eating it’s better to set aside some time for eating. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. Fortunately, the time it takes to focus on this enhanced way of eating is not excessive. You can take a long as you’d like, of course. A long, leisurely meal is nice but not required and is often not feasible in our busy days. So don’t let time get in your way.
Bring your food to a table and sit down. Let’s refrain from eating while standing up. Even nearly all fast food restaurants have tables or a bar where you can set your food down and sit down to eat.
Take a small bite and breathe in as you do. Avoid stuffing your mouth. Just take as much food in a bite to allow for ample additional space in your mouth for chewing and swallowing comfortably with your mouth closed.
Put your spoon or fork down after you take a bite. It doesn’t need to hover there ready to shovel in the next bite. When eating in a hurry we tend to shove more food into our mouth before there has been a chance to enjoy and finish eating the bite so it’s ready for digestion.
Notice your taste buds bursting with flavor. Tasting our food greatly enhances the eating experience. When we don’t notice the flavor of our food, we tend to want more and more because it feels like we haven’t eaten anything yet. This can leave us feeling hungry ever if our stomach is full.
Now savor the taste. Notice the characteristics of your food. Is it salty, sweet, sharp, mixed, etc? Notice if the texture of the food is smooth, soft, crunchy, granular, etc.? Notice its temperature. Is it hot, warm, cool, or cold? Does it require much chewing or does it melt in your mouth. Notice how your tongue engages with your food. Notice the flavor flaring as you chew, maybe even changing somewhat. Taking this time to savor the food in your mouth greatly enhances the pleasure and satisfaction of eating. It too allows your saliva to prepare the bite for proper digestion.
Chew the food to liquid before swallowing. This way, you won’t have a big lump of food for your stomach to tackle. But most importantly for you, this savor period gives you a chance to enjoy your food so you can say, “Umm. That was so good. So satisfying.” You’ll know it’s time to swallow when that good taste is no longer there. Before taking the next bite, wait for the food to reach your stomach. You will be able to feel it as it goes down your esophagus. This gives your stomach a chance to notice and signal that it’s full.
Take a breath and pick up your fork or spoon to take the next bite. Repeat the above process until your tummy says “I’m full.” Then it’s time to stop eating so you won’t have that bloated, stuffed feeling.
Once you begin eating this way, chances are you will be astonished at how much more pleasant eating can be. When it’s become a habit, you won’t like gobbling your food anymore. Your body will want to slow down. You’ll want to savor your meal. It will be such a treat!
Enjoy, you deserve it!
PS – You might also like this article – The Four Hungers Are You Really Hungry?
IMPORTANT NOTE ON DIGESTION. You’ll notice digestion is mentioned several times in this article as a way to properly prepare for digestion before swallowing it. Here’s why this is important. The saliva we produce while eating helps our body digest our food more easily because it contains special enzymes that help digestion. For example, one helps to break down starches (complex carbohydrates) while another breaks down fat.
Unfortunately, around 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. live with a digestive problem. You are undoubtedly aware of some of the more common ones: constipation, bloating, reflux, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping. According to the New American Gastroenterological Association, digestive troubles like these and others disrupt the daily lives of 40% of Americans.
Of course, there are many medical causes for GI problems, but often those with such problems are advised to eat as this article suggests. So, whether you already have GI distress or simply don’t want to have any, why not give your stomach the best chance to do its job with less distress? And you’ll have greater pleasure eating too!