My friend and fellow Oriental Medicine practitioner Mike was over one day and, as conversations wend their way through this field and that, our talk eventually came to eating habits and dietary needs. He mentioned something interesting, something about how people who eat slower tend to not put on as much weight, to be leaner. So that got me poking about on the internet and I found a study from China which might interest you as we rapidly near the winter holidays, having jumped through the first hoop of Halloween and all that candy munching.
The take home point: this study found that subjects—whether fat or skinny—who chewed more per bite of food (40 times versus 15 times) actually ate less.
And interestingly enough, the subjects who chewed more demonstrated lower blood levels of a hunger stimulating chemical called ghrelin compared to the faster eaters.
Hm. So you’re saying that I might be able to avoid both overstuffing my feasthole and the post-glut guilt by just chewing more?
Yep. And on top of that, you can actually elevate the othewise mundane act of eating to a semi-meditative exercise. How’s that?
1) We practice staying in the moment as we tune in to appreciate the textures of the food and the secondary flavor notes that appear when the food is given more mouth time. Which equals greater enjoyment of the experience.
2) We can practice generating gratitude for the privilege of enjoying what’s before us, gratitude toward those who have prepared our meal, gratitude toward the farmers who’ve grown the food, etc., etc.
3) We can reflect on why we’ve chosen to eat what we’re eating and discern whether wisdom, anxiety, or some degree of both have been the governing urges. Greater clarity and awareness on these types of things empowers us to join the dots and change for the better.
But even if you’re not into all that, chewing more puts the food in more contact with salivary enzymes which start the digestion process. This can decrease the burden on the other digestive organs and increase the bioavailability of nutrients. Slowing down by chewing more also allows us to detect the fullness signal earlier and so lessen the likelihood of overeating. Choosing to put aside–even for just the length of a meal–the ever-present mental to-do list and instead enjoy your food can shift the nervous system into relaxation mode and out of stress mode.
And given that being overweight is correlated with so many chronic diseases, it’s in our best interests to cultivate those habits which help us maintain a healthy weight.
So whatever motivates you, be it the science or the art of eating (or the artful science?…or…um…the scientific art?), start adding this today onto your menu of daily wellness practices that you do year-round.