We’ve all heard the age-old saying: “You are what you eat.” But what about HOW we eat? Is there a method, practice, or way of eating that is equally important to whatwe eat? Yes! Here is an eating habit that will transform your physical and even emotional health.
Chewing Your Food
Chewing your food longer and more mindfully will revolutionize your relationship with food while improving digestion on a large scale. On a physical level, our saliva contains essential digestive enzymes that begin breaking apart our food before it even enters the stomach. The longer we chew, the easier it becomes for the rest of our digestive system to do its job. Through longer chewing periods, we can enjoy benefits such as better nutrient absorption, less bloating, and even less hunger. According to a University of Birmingham study, more chewing also equals a fuller feeling belly and less of a desire for snacking later on. This phenomenon is related to the gut’s connection to the brain. It can actually take awhile for the brain to register the gut’s signals of fullness!
So How Long Should We Chew For?
The numbers we’ve seen that determine how many times we should chew are actually pretty arbitrary. What’s important is that we chew long and slowly enough to make sure our food is fully masticated and coated in saliva before swallowing. Try keeping a small timer nearby while you eat. Timing yourself will restrict you from swallowing too early and will even help track how long it takes for your food to be fully chewed.
So rather than asking how many times one should chew, set the timer to count up and see how long it takes for your food to be broken down and drenched in saliva. Chew slowly, and once you have your set time, begin the timer at that time and have it count down. Don’t swallow until it reaches 0!
Another Important Eating Habit: Setting
Now that we’ve seen how we eat is equally as important to what we eat, what are some other ways we can eat more mindfully? Let’s think setting. Here’s what I mean: sometimes we rush to sit with our food. It doesn’t matter how messy or scattered our eating areas are. We shove whatever we need aside and start chowing down. Soon enough, we’re eating unconsciously and probably too quickly. Having a clean eating setting can foster more mindfulness in our eating. It increases our awareness of the present moment where we find deeper connections to our food. To help foster present moment awareness even further, light a few unscented candles. Lighting candles during a meal creates a relaxing setting that will in turn slow down the chewing process. Just clean your eating area well and then light the calming candles.
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Being Patient With Eating Habits
Creating new habits takes time and persistence. One study even shows that forming a new healthy habit takes over 2 months!
Many of us grew up under the impression that gobbling our food down at alarming rates is safe and not necessarily unhealthy. We’ve been eating this way our entire lives thinking it’s normal! I’m here to tell you that your digestion and energy levels will improve 10-fold with the implementation of these new eating habits: chewing slowly and more frequently while eating in a zen-inspired setting.
Don’t be discouraged if chewing more is challenging at first. It’s common to have setbacks while attempting to form new habits. I for one find myself eating food too vigorously at times although I’ve been making a conscious effort to slow it down since realizing we are how we eat, not only what we eat. Implementing a new habit is about taking 3 steps forward and then 2 steps back. It’s never about perfectionism, but about progress. Best of luck!