HOW you eat is just as important as WHAT you eat

By Judith Reid - Naturopathic Nutritionist -

Photo 1 - Title - How you eat (1)

Modern life is so fast-paced that even eating, a much loved activity, is shoe-horned into our daily back-to-back activities. When was the last time you sat down quietly with your food, chewed and savoured each mouthful, not worrying about what you were supposed to be doing next or even rushing off to do it? When was the last time you ate a meal without multi-tasking (watching TV, getting the children ready for school, reading the paper or internet)?

At its extreme, many people skip breakfast and grab a coffee and muffin en route to the office.  Lunch is often a sandwich made by someone they don’t even know, and dinner is a pre-packaged offering zapped in the microwave late at night.  All washed down with pills and potions for indigestion, ulcers and digestive upsets!!

This may only describe the lot of the commuter, but most of us, at some time or other, are guilty of paying too little attention to HOW we prepare and eat our food.

How did we become so far removed from one of the greatest health-giving pleasures of life?

Below are just a few thoughts on how we can tune back into our wisdom regarding our food.

ENJOY the PREPARATION 

If you are lucky enough to have a little time on your hands, there is nothing more rewarding than thoughtfully chopping the ingredients, marrying them together, and infusing your meal-to-be with love and attention.

Action: Even if you are time-starved during the week, try to make at least one meal special over the weekend by preparing it from scratch.

SAVOUR your PRE-MEAL

Your digestive process starts well before lifting up your fork and taking your first mouthful. The thought, aromas and look of food get your gastric juices flowing. Using colourful crockery or special cutlery, choosing foods in a rainbow of colour, setting your table to look attractive, and using delicious herbs and spices can really set the mood. Some cultures use their hands to eat. Being tactile is just another way that you can really engage with food.

Action: Invoke all your senses and notice the difference.

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PARK your problems well away from the dining area

If you are stressed, it doesn’t much matter if you are eating the healthiest meal or a microwaved mess!! Stress causes the digestive tract to slow down. Your body is wisely preparing for the life-and-death situation that you are playing out in your head, and energy is diverted away from non-essential processes like digestion!! If you are upset whilst eating, you won’t be absorbing much and your food is likely to be festering away instead, causing indigestion and bloating.

Action: Adopt a relaxed state of mind before each meal, and whilst eating, try to avoid heated debates, upsetting news / films!!

THINK SMALL

Make a fist and look at it. It’s not that big is it? Surprisingly, this is the size of your stomach!!  Your stomach stretches to accommodate either simple meals or feasts. A bit like your washing machine, your poor old tum works most effectively on smaller loads, and overloading it over time can cause a huge strain.

Action: Avoid portion distortion (chocolate bars, burgers etc are all made bigger nowadays), and if you insist on finishing your plate, start with a smaller portion to begin with!!

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CHEW IT 

Pop a slice of carrot, or perhaps a teaspoon of sunflower seeds, into your mouth and focus on the experience. Chew it until you cannot chew it anymore. Count the number of chews. This surprises people on two counts. Firstly, how sweet the food becomes (this is because you are releasing simpler sugars) and secondly the realisation that normally they swallow well before their food is completely chewed!! Chewing starts the digestive process. If we don’t do it well, the stomach has more work to do which adds to its already overburdened workload!

Action: get the chewing habit. See next point.

MINDFUL EATING, TAKING TIME

Eating mindfully means focusing your total attention on your food. It’s very easy to clean a plate whilst watching your favourite TV programme without even realising that you have eaten anything!!! (I’ve done it!!). By focusing on your food, you can savour it, really enjoy the individual flavours as well as tune into the internal cues of when you have eaten enough.

Action: Allow yourself time.  Switch off the TV. Focus on each mouthful of food. Chew and savour.

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