Today, most of us are pressed for time. There isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. We are constantly rushing from one activity to another, grabbing meals to go and ending most days exhausted. The action of eating your food too quickly causes poor digestion, disconnection with people and ultimately overeating. I know it seems ridiculous but just slowing down while eating is a game changer for those who “inhale” their food.
Many years ago, people took the time to eat. They sat down at a table, spent time engaged with others and relaxed. They enjoyed food and the social aspect of sharing food together. Today, we eat while driving, watching television or working at our desk. When we mindlessly go about eating, we are unaware of the amount of food we eat or the time it takes. This especially happens when we go too long between meals. By being busy, we put off eating until our hunger is overwhelming us. We eat too fast and end up eating way more than we physically need.
Our body has a built in mechanism to help us know when to eat and when to stop. It is the hormonal loop that runs between our brain and stomach. The hormones Ghrelin (hunger) and Leptin (satiety) are the main players involved. The problem is that it takes roughly 20 minutes for the loop to complete itself. If you eat a meal in 10 minutes, your brain hasn’t had the time to receive the message that you have eaten enough to fulfill your body’s needs. You are still feeling the effects of Ghrelin and reach for seconds. A perfect example is to think of how a baby or a toddler eats. They eat when hungry and stop when they are full. They listen to the signal their body sends out and they respond. Taking 15 minutes to eat a meal helps to bring us back in touch with our natural appetite control system.
Here are a few simple strategies that will help you to start the process of slowing down and tuning in:
#1) Set aside time to eat in your schedule. Don’t eat on the run or eat at your desk while working. Take a 15 minutes break from all the work and chaos to quietly relax and eat. Don’t wait too long between meals. Try to eat every 3-4 hours.
#2) Limit distractions like television and the internet to enjoy your food. Enjoy conversing with others and practice being present in the moment. This will help you be mindful while eating.
#3) Take it slow at first. If you are taking 5 minutes to eat now, begin by taking six minutes to eat your next meal and so on. Build on your successes.
#5) Check in with yourself while eating to actually see if you are hungry or starting to feel full. If you happen to finish a meal earlier, wait until 20 minutes have passed before getting more food. Be mindful of your portion sizes.
In conclusion, don’t give up because you just can’t eat that slow. If you can just start the process of slowing down, you will feel the difference in your digestion and appetite. Clients have come back to us and shared “I couldn’t even finish the food on my plate for the first time”. It really does help you understand portion size and helps you be in touch with your appetite cues. Mastering this habit will help you when dining out, at parties or when you can’t control what food is served.