We eat too fast. That’s simple right? You’ve heard it already and sure – you know you shouldn’t be eating over your keyboard as you read this, but have you ever known why? If you’re looking to lose or gain weight – the speed at which you eat can mean more in some cases than what you actually eat. Here’s why.
Chew your food!
Ideal food sources are made up of lots of nutrients, such as macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), as well other things like water and fiber. In order to eat them, we chew, breaking the food down into smaller pieces so we can access the nutrients. Chewing is not only how we make sure that we don’t choke and die, it’s the first step in digestion. The saliva in our mouth contains enzymes that help break food down further from a bite sized state. Without chewing, we miss a critical part of unlocking what’s good in our food.
You can make a super colorful, organically raised meal – but if you don’t actually chew it. Lots of the nutrients from that food pass you by meaning actually chewing and digesting something with less nutritional value can be more helpful for your body than inhaling a perfectly portioned meal. Chewing also releases pleasurable neurotransmitters in our brain – one of the reasons why chewing on things can be a response to stress.
Your brain and your stomach need to catch up!
When we hurry our meal process the process of satiety (fullness) takes time to catch up. We’ve all been there. It’s a big dinner, you’ve been waiting or preparing all day for it – time to eat and you scarf down everything in sight before you even know what happened and now you’re looking for sweatpants. Your body needs time to recognize what’s happening and adjust to feeling full because of it.
One of the easiest things you can do is start by adding 5 minutes to each meal. Time yourself for a meal to get a baseline, then add 5 minutes. Better yet, try and turn off the screen you’re looking at while you eat or doing it in a distracted environment. This will help you chew more (point number 1) and recognize how your body feels – leaving you with a better chance of fueling appropriately. One thing that I do (especially with desserts!) is put my fork down between bites – this simple act slows me down and creates mindful practice.
Get on a schedule
Especially, right now – our at home schedules are a mess. We’re eating/working/sleeping/making fitness all under one roof or even in the same room. That makes it really hard to work on a single activity at a time. In the case of eating though, routine is really important to our nervous system. Our bodies like routine and slower, smaller meals at predictable intervals give our body the chance to feel hunger and satiety cues as well as understand how food makes us feel.
Why it matters
I used to get a sandwich from a deli down the road from my office. Every day, I’d bring it back to work, eat it over my computer keyboard and within 30 minutes I would be doing everything I could to keep my eyes open. What was my response? Energy drink and cookies (not kidding). Because at the time I was working out 2-3 hours a day, I thought none of it really mattered, just eat. It took me awhile to actually start to notice this pattern – rather than, just throw sugar at the issue to wake myself back up (which wouldn’t work), I started to change my lunch. I swapped out bread for sweet potatoes and processed deli meats for proteins I cooked at home. Then I found I didn’t need crave the soda and if I did need a pick me up, I switched to a caffeinated tea without added sugar.
The goal here isn’t to be perfect. The goal is to be mindful and by slowing down, we connect to our food, learn how it makes us feel and live healthier. All by just doing what mom told you when you were a kid. Share your food and chew it.