Did you know that the simple strategy of chewing can make a big difference with your eating habits? Chewing your food adequately allows your body to absorb and assimilate more nutrients and improves digestion. Because you’re taking more time to chew, you’ll also notice that you feel full sooner, which means you’re much more likely to consume fewer calories while still feeling full. This can help with weight loss and/or weight maintenance. It may also be helpful for reducing symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn and acid reflux.
Taking time with a meal, beginning with chewing, allows for enjoyment of the whole experience of eating: the smells, flavors and textures. It helps us to give thanks, to show appreciation for the abundance in our lives, and to develop patience and self-control.
The power of chewing is so great that there are stories of concentration camp survivors who, when others could not, made it through with very little food by chewing their meager rations up to 300 times per bite of food. For most of us 300 chews is a daunting and unrealistic goal. However, you can experience the benefits of chewing by increasing to 30 chews per bite.
Try this at your next meal: Before you eat, take a deep breath or two and relax. Focus on the meal in front of you. Give thanks for the food and those who grew it and prepared it. Then, do your best to chew each bite 30 times and see how you do and how you feel. After you do this for a while, you won’t have to count anymore; you’ll know by the texture of the food, which should be completely liquefied before you swallow. Your stomach doesn’t have teeth, so the more you can break down the food in your mouth; the easier it will be for your body to digest it.
Also be aware of your surroundings as you eat. Turn off the TV or computer and put down your iPhone or newspaper. And notice your eating habits when you are alone versus with noisy company. Pay attention to the food and to how you are breathing and chewing. This kind of quiet can be disconcerting at first, since we are used to a steady stream of advertising, news, media, email and demands of others. But as you create this new habit, you will begin to appreciate eating without rushing. You have to eat every day - why not learn to savor and enjoy it. Choose a meal and try it this week to take a step forward for better health.
Sara Wolfsen is a Certified Health & Lifestyle Coach who specializes in helping people make their own healthy changes by providing private health coaching, nutrition education and wellness classes, and gentle weight-loss guidance and support. Schedule your complimentary coaching session and learn more online at www.sarawolfsen.com.