11 November 2008

An Experiment in ‘Slow-Down’ Eating

I have mentioned before how important it is that eating not be rushed, because that tends to make us less attentive and more mentally detached during mealtime. This can make meals much less enjoyable and promote unhealthy and excessive eating habits.

According to Marc David of ‘The Slow Down Diet’ “Eating too fast creates stress in the body. That causes a spike in cortisol and insulin, which in turn diminishes your ability to burn calories and makes you more likely to gain weight”. On the subject of eating quickly and it’s impact on overeating he comments that “The brain demands more food if it doesn’t have time to register it’s needs for taste, aroma, and satisfaction”.
Source: Natural Health, May 2008. 'Stressed Out?...Slow Down'

He suggests an easy technique that can help tame hurried eating and force more mindfulness and attention during mealtime. I’ve been experimenting with it and although it’s ridiculously simple, it works. The original idea is to double the time you normally would take to eat a meal. So if it takes you five minutes to eat lunch then stretch that out to ten minutes. But I’ve modified the technique so that I don’t feel like I’m a slave to the clock.

Although I consider myself to be a relatively unhurried eater, I find that this is not always the case, particularly when I’m eating in front the television. So this technique is especially helpful. It’s not about looking at your watch constantly or putting yourself on a timer. You are not trying to finish eating by the time you set, but what you are trying to do is to give mealtime the time and awareness it deserves.

To me if you usually finish a meal in 15 minutes it might seem a tall order to stretch it to 30 minutes. So I find it best to do it in 'pockets' of time instead. I start off with a standard 8 minutes which I use for all meals, and keep on adding eight minute time intervals until I’m done eating. You can use 5 or 7 or 10 minutes etc; whatever works for you. It’s best to use a clock in the room or the digital clock on the DVD machine or cable box, or even your cell phone clock. But whatever you do, don’t use a timer!

I think what this exercise really does is to allow you to have a solid sense of the actual act of eating and what you are eating, which naturally slows down the entire process. You may begin taking smaller bites or allowing yourself greater gaps between bites, giving you some time to really taste and savor what you’re consuming.

According to Marc David, this kind of eating can also improve your ability to better discern when you have had enough and when you need to stop eating.

Try it. It might work for you, and perhaps make eating a more mindful and enjoyable experience.


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