When was the last time you truly savored something?
Yesterday? Last month? You can't remember?
One pattern I notice in many of my clients is that they eat without realizing it. Far from savoring it, they don't even know they ate it! There are two significant reasons that this happens:
- They fall prey to distracted eating. They are feeding both their faces and their minds at the same time. Too many meals or snacks occur in front of the TV, scrolling through their phones, working through their lunch hour, or en route to somewhere else. Multi-tasking, grab and go, busyness and boredom are significant contributors to this issue.
- For others, they eat a day's worth of calories in small bites - those bites that they think "don't count". A sample at the grocery store, the bite of their kid's lunch, a "sliver" or the treat at the office, a breath mint after a meal out, the few spoonfuls of dinner that aren't worth saving as leftovers.
Why are these things really a problem?
If you're looking to lose weight, or prevent weight gain, then you don't want to unintentionally consume food. This is why many dietitians will recommend that people keep a food diary - if only for a few days - to notice these patterns and really discover how much they are eating. Often, people find their eating habits to be dramatically different from their perceptions of their eating habits!
You don't enjoy what you're eating. You're not taking the time to SAVOR your food if you're barely aware that you're eating it in the first place. Too often, when people "go on a diet", they assume that they must suffer. They hold an inherent belief of an inverse relationship between the health of a food and their enjoyment of it. That's just silly. Food in general is meant to be enjoyed, and there are plenty of delicious healthy foods out there!
You don't digest well. When your mind is distracted by outside media, it's not focused on digestion. Which means that your body is actually not as effective at digesting food - to the tune of 30-40% less effective. This can mean that you're missing out on key nutrients from your food. Also, it probably means that you're going to experience some digestive distress - gas, bloating, bowel irregularities. I wonder how much of the gluten-free frenzy is coming from misdiagnosis because people are just too darn distracted when they're eating?!
You eat too much - now and later. The mind-body connection is super important in how accurately you assess hunger vs fullness. By multi-tasking, you disrupt the connection, causing a static in the line of communication, so to speak. This means that your brain doesn't get all the signals of taste, enjoyment, and satisfaction. Depending on how extreme the situation, your brain might not even define what happened as "eating"! This means your brain is going to continue to send out signals to your body that you're hungry. Will power is not likely to win out here!
What can we do?
It's going to sound a little strange, but you have to practice eating. Just eating. Nothing but eating. It doesn't mean that every meal needs to last an hour.
All you mom's chasing little ones around all day? You don't get a lunch break. I get it. But you can pause before you put food in your mouth. You can take 5 seconds to visually register what you're about it eat. You can take 5 seconds to make a note of the taste in your mouth. Maybe it's not gourmet food from a 5-star restaurant, but you can still pause to enjoy it. Just forcing yourself to make the connection between your eyes, brain and stomach can help.
To my friends who are consuming media while they eat. Put down the remote. Put down your phone. Try just 10 minutes per meal of distraction-free eating. To my friends trying to get in more billable hours by eating through lunch, I offer the same advice. Yeah, a 30-minute lunch might sound crazy luxurious. But the break will refresh you to be more productive later in the day. And if you've registered that you ate, and are actually satisfied by that meal, it means you won't be distracted by hunger later in the day. An actual win-win.
Not every meal or snack is going to feel savor-worthy. Sometimes you have to grab something quick and easy. Sometimes it's not what you really want. But the more you practice savoring the moment, the more you practice being thankful for the food you have, the more you are aware that you are eating - the more satisfied you will feel. It's worth it!