Strategies for making lifestyle changes: Slow down and chew thoroughly

This is one thing I need to keep working on: slow down when I eat.  I eat too fast and maybe you do too?  It's not a good thing.  The food we swallow should be well chewed so that it is liquid when we swallow it.


The first part of digestion begins in the mouth.  This is where the enzyme amylase, in saliva, is mixed with starches and their breakdown begins.  If you put food in your mouth and swallow it without proper chewing, you've missed this first step of digestion and the body has a harder time digesting that food later.

Yes, I know all the excuses: "I like my food hot. If I eat it slowly it'll be cool by the time I've finished". But if you are eating your food fast, after the first mouthful, you don't even taste it, never mind being aware of its temperature.

Or then there is "I don't have time to eat it slowly".  Well, we all need to make time.  It takes just a few extra minutes to properly chew a meal as opposed to wolf it down quickly.


Take some food into your mouth and chew it for at least 30 chews.  The more you practice, the easier it gets.

Here are some studies to consider:

  • Research conducted at the university of Pennsylvania determined that diners consumed more overall food and calories when they sped up their eating pace and consumed fewer calories when they slowed down.
  • Research on thousands of Japanese office workers showed that fast eaters ate more calories than slow eaters, tended to gain more weight, and were more likely to have insulin resistance.
  • Research shows that there is a lag in time from when you have consumed enough food to trigger fullness and when you actually feel a sense of fullness. The more slowly you eat, the more time you have for the fullness signal from your stomach to reach your brain.

So how can you practice this skill?  Here are some ideas
  1. Change something at the table where you normally eat - for example, put a candle or ornament on the table. When you see that, it'll trigger a reminder to slow down.  Each night, put something different on the table - it can be something nice or something odd like a ruler or box - anything that catches your eye and makes you stop and think.
  2. Put down your utensils between mouthfuls or if it is something you are eating with your hands, put the food down between mouthfuls.
  3. Don't fill up your fork until you've finished what is in your mouth.
  4. Eat without distractions. If the television is on, or you are reading - you tend to eat quicker - so slow down and think about the taste of each mouthful.
  5. Put a clock or timer on the table and watch just how fast you normally eat.  Then chew 30 times and see how long this takes.  Seeing the clock go round is a great reminder to slow down.
Not only will these slow down tactics help you eat smaller quantities, it'll also help your digestion.

The "chew" idea is also important with foods like smoothies.  A large part of smoothies is carbohydrates and starches, so when you "drink" your smoothie, make sure you also swish it around your mouth, and use chew like action with your teeth, so the saliva can start its amylase enzyme reaction to breakdown that carbohydrate.

Let's start with our next meal or snack.  Put something on the table now to remind you.  Lets give amylase a chance!
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Happy St Patrick's Day

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Photo by zbigphotography
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