Part TWO: The HOW of Eating
Eating a meal is not something to “get over with”. Instead, choose to savor your food.
Are you a slow, fast, or moderate eater? For many of us, (myself included!) eating quickly can be one of the hardest habits to change. Food is a part of the environment OUTSIDE our body. When we take food into our body (ie, EAT) it goes through the process of digestion, absorption and assimilation, and becomes our skin, muscles, our brain and organs! Eating isn't something to get over with in order to move onto the next thing! It IS the thing.
The process of eating, digestion, absorption and assimilation is incredible. Plants, or animals that ate plants, transform to become our body, an amazingly intimate process. This understanding has helped me to consciously choose to eat “real” food, and skip “food-like” substances which ask the body to digest what doesn't exist in nature. Recently, this perspective turned on a light bulb with one of my clients, and helped him slow down the rushed eating patterns in his life.
There are two states in which we live, number one, in stress response (sympathetic dominance), and number two, in the relaxation response (parasympathetic dominance). It's not possible to exist in both states simultaneously. When driving, walking, scrolling online, or even thinking about a stressful situation, our body is not relaxed, and cannot optimally digest, absorb and assimilate the food we’re eating. We can improve HOW we eat by mindfully establishing the relaxation response when eating.
Recently, a friend and I were reviewing the proofs of her new book at an outdoor cafe. When the soup arrived, pages were spread around, so we moved the bowls to the side. For the next five minutes, without eating, we enjoyed the beautiful orange tomato soup drizzled with green basil oil and the aroma. It was a wonderful practice of savoring the food and moving into relaxation response, which prepares the body to optimally digest, absorb and assimilate a meal.
Digestion starts in the brain. Our digestive juices and enzymes begin to flow before anything ever enters our mouth, so preparing a meal ourselves actually helps with digestion. If you ever feel hungry not long after eating, it could be because your awareness wasn’t on the food, and your body literally didn't get the message that it had eaten.
If feeling extremely hungry causes you to eat quickly, first drink a glass of room temperature (not cold or iced) water. Drinking 10-15 minutes before you eat is optimal. Hunger is often disguised as thirst, and drinking water is one strategy to help you slow down.
TIPS ON EATING MINDFULLY
- Take at least three deep breaths before eating.
- Commit to sitting down and focusing on eating without any distractions.
- Look at the food and smell the aroma.
- Recognize, with gratitude, all the steps involved for the food to arrive on your plate, especially if you did not prepare it yourself.
- Set a timer. Whether for 15 minutes or up to 30, extend the period of the meal. It’s a process, and taking more time to eat will yield benefits including better digestion, which can improve your overall health and well being.
Remember, it's NOT what we do occasionally that matters as much as what we do most of the time that affects our health and well being. The Reset and Renew online program is Three Weeks of Nourishing Self Care to Learn to Live Better in Your Body.