Americans have a deadly love affair with speed. How many of your daily meals are consumed while you are at your desk, trying to finish that late report you have been stressing about all week, or while driving to your next appointment, or even skipped completely because you just couldn't find the time to eat?!
Do you grab a cup of coffee on the way to work, then nibble on junk at your desk until lunch, when you are lucky if you can find the time to cram down a sandwich or salad, and then wonder, "Why can I never seem to lose these last 15 pounds?"
I have some surprising news for you. What matters infinitely more than what you eat is HOW you eat!
Think about how much time you spent on your meals yesterday. Did you skip breakfast, or did you gobble up a bagel at the early morning meeting? At lunchtime, did you take a lunch break, or did you work through lunch? How long did it actually take you to eat? Many of us may not even remember, because we were so distracted by life all around us that it was almost as if we weren't eating at all. Do you remember feeling satisfied by what you ate? Perhaps you remember more clearly how sluggish or uncomfortable you felt after you ate.
Here's something to chew on. In order for your body and mind to find adequate nutrition in the food you eat, no matter how healthful it is, you have to actually experience the eating process. That means, for most of us, to SLOW DOWN! Realize that this is your opportunity to nourish your body and create energy, and that it is quite probably the most important thing you will be doing that day.
The simple process of slowing down and being present while you eat will not only improve your digestion, but it will also help you shed unwanted pounds and inches. You see, when we are rushed at meal times, we send a message to our bodies that we are stressed, creating adrenaline which causes the body to store food as fat. Being in this constant "fight or flight" state when we eat will cause unnecessary stress on our digestive and immune systems. It literally weighs us down with stored fat.
If you are normally a fast eater, or someone who thinks they have no time to eat, try rearranging your schedule so that you can have at least 15 minutes of UNDISTURBED time to eat your meals. Make a commitment to do what it takes to ensure that you do have the time. You may have to get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning. You may have to work 15 minutes later than usual. Or it may be as simple as talking to your boss or coworkers and letting them know that you need a little break to maintain your energy and focus. You may find that there are others in your office who would also appreciate this, and feel free to invite them to join you for lunch! New habits are easier to form with support.
When you sit down for a meal, (and I mean that literally, you need to sit in order to relax and align your body for proper digestion,) take the time to look at and smell your food before you begin. While you are eating, concentrate on chewing each bite 20 to 30 times and pay attention to how it tastes. Set down your fork between each bite and take a deep breath and small sip of water, if desired. Ignore the phone (that’s what voicemail is for, right?) email, or other distractions and try to remain focused on enjoying what you are eating.
When you do finish, take just a moment to reflect on the experience. How do you feel after your meal? Do you feel satisfied, content, relaxed? Now imagine what you will do next. Do you feel better prepared for whatever life throws at you now that you have taken the time to give yourself the energy you need?
Congratulations, you have taken the first step towards improving your nutritional wellbeing! Now I will challenge you further. After a week or two, push the allotted time for your meals up to 30 minutes. Challenge yourself to take the full 30 minutes to finish your meal. If you eat with others, see if you can be the last one to finish eating, then pat yourself on the back for being the most aware of your digestive health at the table.
If you believe in the importance of eating for energy, nutrition and overall health, you can find the time to do it! You may need to think creatively and arrange your schedule in advance, but you will find that it is worth it when you no longer feel unfulfilled, uncomfortable, or lethargic after meals.
Do your body a favor. Experience your food! You will be amazed how great it feels... and tastes!