Slow Down and CHEW – tips for eating mindfully
As a colon hydrotherapist, I see a lot of clients who experience digestive challenges. Often, a client will ask me what they can do, or what can they take, in order to improve their digestion.
Most of us know that to have a healthy digestive system we need to eat clean & healthy foods, not overeat, drink adequate water, exercise regularly. We can also get food sensitivity testing, take probiotics, use proper food combining, take digestive enzymes.
I believe in dealing with the basics first – by looking at our habits and lifestyles. We may first need to make some changes in our fundamental way of living, before we reach out elsewhere for answers. A common question I ask is “How is your chewing?” or “Do you think you eat slow or fast?” This question often really hits home with people. So many people answer that they do eat fast – gulping down a meal in 10 minutes, eating at their desk at work, eating while watching TV or reading, or eating in the car while driving.
A fast-paced life usually includes fast-paced eating of meals. Eating while distracted or rushed means that we have no idea of how thoroughly, or not, we are chewing our food, because we are not paying attention. Even though as children we may have repeatedly heard “chew your food”, it often didn’t sink in. I think that in our Western culture we are generally oblivious to how our bodies digest food. We seem to think, albeit unconsciously, that our stomach will break down everything for us, and that we don’t need to participate in this. We are so wrong.
It’s not enough to just tell someone to eat more slowly, to chew thoroughly. Because how does one do that? We have been chewing this way for probably decades by now… the habit is ingrained. I often give my clients 3 “chewing tips” that they can implement to become aware of their usual way of downing their food. These tips are simple, yet not necessarily easy. It does take some effort to make any habit changes. But if you implement these tips it is totally do-able to change your chewing habits. I know because I have done this. As a former overeater, binge eater and sugar addict, I have learned to eat more mindfully and can now catch myself when I am slipping. Here are the tips:
- Look at the amount of food on your fork or spoon that you are about to put into your mouth. It ought to be the size of a loonie or a toonie, not twice that size! If we put too large a portion into our mouth at once, there is no way that we can chew it thoroughly even if we try.
- Put your fork down between each bite, and do not pick it up again until you have swallowed the previous bite. And, the previous bite must be chewed to a paste or a liquid before you swallow it. Think about it – when we are busy getting our next forkful of food ready, and anticipating how good it’s going to be – we are totally not living in the present! In fact we are trying to be in the next moment, and totally missing the experience going on right here, right now in our own body. Putting the fork down forces us to pay attention to the NOW – where we can feel the texture of the food and can also taste the food more.
- Do this as an awareness experiment.
- A. Take a bite of food and chew your usual way, counting your chews until you swallow. This is for awareness purposes only so be honest with yourself, and do not berate yourself at all.
- B. Take a second bite of food and chew it 40 times, counting as you go (I have heard anywhere from 25-50 times, so count and experiment to find out how many chews does it take you to result in a paste or liquid in your mouth).
What you are doing here is a mindful eating meditation. It is an ongoing practice and do not expect perfection. I believe that success is achieved when we are able to catch ourselves when eating too fast, which is our cue to put that fork down again. Your reward will be improved digestion and a healthier, calmer body and mind.
I once heard a quote that stopped me in my tracks. I had a lot of digestive issues at the time and this make me think about how I had been inhaling my food, eating too much and too fast. “How we digest food is how we digest life”. Think about it.