I’ve been obsessively focused on my physical health for the last 13 years. In all that time, the most important nutritional advice I’ve ever been given, and that I can pass along to others, is this:
Eat slowly and mindfully
Truly: eating slowly and mindfully will benefit you more than what, when or how much you eat.
The problem with healthy eating, with nutrition, with dieting and with all the static surrounding the health sphere is that the majority of people don’t actually know what to focus on.
Most, unfortunately, focus on the little stuff: the things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things (unless you’re a bodybuilder or competitor).
You don’t have to know the exact percentage of carbs that you need to consume every day or even scale out the portions of food in respect to eating for your body type. More often than not it’s HOW you eat that matters the most.
Of course, while you’re eating slowly and mindfully, try to ensure that you’re eating whole, minimally processed, natural foods.
Eating slower can lead to improved satiety and eating less
This is basic knowledge and was taught to us as children (except we probably weren’t paying attention). Eating slowly allows you to digest food, process nutrients and begin the metabolic processes properly that results in a fuller feeling although less food has been consumed.
It takes about 20 minutes for our body to register all of the signals being sent from our gut to our brain and back to our stomach; these are the signals release that hormones to help digest food, tell us when we aren’t hungry anymore and let us know when we are hungry again.
There is also a psychological effect to eating slower: you get to enjoy your food, taste everything and end up feeling more satisfied with the entire experience.
Eating slower is the easiest way that anyone can start losing weight and feeling better. This simple habit can prove to be effective almost immediately.
Reduce discomfort, bloating and look better
Ever eaten really fast and felt like you were going to explode? Yes, I mean figuratively, but still: serious feelings of sickness, nausea, discomfort, gassiness, or swelling/distention? Well, that’s your body’s response to shoving too much food in your face too quickly.
Your stomach has a hard time digesting big chunks of food, which slows down your metabolism; this results in indigestion, inflammation and other GI issues. Slow down your eating a bit and see if that’s perhaps the explanation for all of your bloating and inflammation.
Identify the “hungry” and “full” feelings
Way too many of us (myself included) eat when we aren’t actually hungry and keep eating well past when we’re full. Correct this easily with mindful, slow eating.
I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. By making slow eating a habit you can actually improve your appetite awareness, which can help you recognize and trust the signals your body is sending you.
This effect will compound over time, leading to your ability to restrain yourself from over-eating or eating unnecessarily.
While eating slowly is simple and effective, it’s not always the easiest thing. Just like your breathing during your workout, it’s obvious and important; but until you’ve practiced it enough, your breathing will be off from time to time.
The following are a list of simple steps that can help you implement this amazing habit into your daily life:
Monitor your breathing
Firstly, take more breaths throughout your meal – this results in a longer meal-time.
Before you eat: breathe, then take a bite, then breathe – and go one bite at a time, breath after bite.
Add a minute to every meal
Seriously: add a minute to each meal until you are capable of sitting with your thoughts (omg, I know…it sounds insane). But – this will lead to improved digestion!
Take about 20 minutes to complete your meal instead of scarfing it down while you watch a music video on YouTube. Stop eating in front of the TV!
We all do it! We’ve all been guilty, even if you say you aren’t. (you know you are!)
Again, take your face out of a screen for 20 minutes and try to enjoy your food. Maybe sit outside, after all; it’s summer…what better excuse!
CHEW. YOUR. FOOD.
I joke that we are NOT whales – we aren’t capable of digesting whole morsels of food in one big swallow. Unless you have an extra stomach, or razor blades in your esophagus that shred the food on the way down, you’re just like the rest of us.
Chewing our food allows our stomachs to eke out the nutrients from the food, which fuels us properly.
Savour your food
Do you eat food that you secretly hate, just because its healthy? Are you preparing food or eating food that is prepared for you that tastes like dirt to you?
You should be enjoying what you put in your body. Never mind the slow eating aspect – if you hate what you’re eating then you’re sending the WRONG signals to your brain. But that’s a whole different conversation.
All of these things can help you slow down and eat mindfully. They will also lead to a much happier you over time.
As always, if you’re looking for more information, habits, tips or coaching, contact me HERE for a free consultation and assessment!
Wes Van Hart is a personal trainer, nutritionist (and far more), located in Toronto. Wes is an advocate for constantly improving both physical and mental health, and as such, he is dedicated to advancing his knowledge base, certifications and ability to help his clients, no matter how that looks.
Wes was the very first FitIn affiliate, and is a regular contributor to the FitIn blog.