Do you guys remember my vow to try and start eating more slowly? In the month since I wrote that post, I’ve been implementing a few changes at mealtime, so I thought it would be a good time to report back with what’s really made a difference for me. As we touched upon in the last post, these busy lives we lead often require doing everything very quickly and very efficiently, often on autopilot because we’re actually doing two (or five) things at once. I’ve noticed that when I habitually down my meals quickly, I feel dissatisfied and am more likely to reach for snacks or desserts later, even when I’m not truly hungry.
Eating slowly brings mindfulness and appreciation to mealtimes, and perhaps most importantly, it encourages optimal digestion. It makes us think about whether or not we’re truly hungry, and makes it easier to set down our fork when we’re full. I’ve noticed that since I’ve started eating more slowly, I actually feel more satisfied after eating less — and when I leave the table I actually feel happier in my soul. Click through for 8 tips that are really helping me eat more slowly — and I’d love to hear any that I left off in the comments!
I recently realized that when I’m eating quickly, I tend to barely chew my food before swallowing (gross.) Digestion starts in the mouth, so if large bites of improperly chewed food make it to your stomach, your body will have to work really hard to digest each piece of food, taking up huge amounts of your body’s energy and often resulting in GI problems. Try setting a certain number of chews you’re aiming for per bite, then appreciate the tastes and textures while you’re counting. I’ve been trying for 20, which seemed like a lot at first, but after a bit of practice is getting easier and definitely slowing down my eating.
This is the toughest one for me. With the exception of dinner which we always eat together as a family, my other meals are often done in tandem with another activity. Breakfast while I’m texting, lunch while I’m typing, sucking down a smoothie while I’m driving. Whether it’s reading, talking on the phone, or watching TV, multitasking while eating seriously gets in the way of mindfulness. I’ve been trying to take just 15 minutes to just eat.
Have a conversation.
The only other activity that you should aim to do while eating? Relishing in a great conversation with family and friends. This is the secret behind those hours-long lunches you hear about in places like Italy, France, and Spain, where mealtimes are approached as a time for community and conversation. If you’re chatting, you can’t be simultaneously eating, so the mere act of conversation will slow down the meal (not to mention make it incredibly fun.)
Put down your fork between bites.
If you’re shoveling bites of food into your mouth one after another without putting down your fork, you’re not giving yourself a chance to register fullness (it takes 20 minutes for your mind to get the message.) As a result, you’ll likely end up feeling way too stuffed at the end of a meal. The trick here is to set down your fork after taking a bite, then wait to pick it up again only after you’ve thoroughly chewed and swallowed the previous bite of food (and possibly also taken a sip of water.)
This one really helps me — putting down my knife and fork to sip water gives me a “rest” between bites, plus the extra liquid helps me feel more full.
Make mealtime an event.
Instead of just squeezing it in wherever, make mealtime an appointment in your day that you can look forward to as a break from the busyness and a time to nourish your body. Use a real plate, actually sit at the table, and carve out at least 20 – 30 minutes. Following certain rituals signals to your brain that it’s time to focus on eating.
Serve smaller portions.
Since we have a natural tendency to eat whatever is in front of us, when presented with a huge plate full of food, we want to “dive in” and clear it off. Smaller portions encourage slower, more mindful eating where we can savor every bite.
Refocus during the meal.
Like meditation, eating slowly takes practice, and it’s natural to start to daydream during a meal and suddenly find yourself eating quickly again. It’s okay! When your mind starts to wander, set your utensils down, take a deep breath, and refocus your mind on the slow eating at hand.