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! While there might be a variety of reasons this is the case, I found that most of my clients fall into one of two categories:
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, a bite of their kid's lunch, a "sliver" of a donut at the office, a mint after a meal out, the few spoonfuls of dinner that aren't worth saving as leftovers. All of that adds up without them even noticing.
Is this really a problem?
If you're looking to find peace with food, lose weight, understand how foods impact your body, relieve your GI/digestion issues, then you don't want to accidentally” consume food. If we work together, this is exactly why I might recommend that you keep a food diary. To get the benefits of a diary, it doesn’t have to be a life-long thing. A few days at a time every once in awhile can make a big difference to notice patterns and discover how much - and what! - you are truly eating. Often, my clients find their actual eating habits are really different from their perceived eating habits! Here are the top 3 reasons you should be savoring your food.
You don't enjoy what you’re eating. You're certainly not able to savor your food if you're barely aware that you're eating it in the first place. How often have you gone in for another bite of a distracted meal only to find you finished it? Seriously. This happens. You cannot get satisfaction from a meal you don’t know you ate. And when I say satisfaction, I mean both the feeling of fullness and the enjoyment. Speaking of enjoyment, I have found that many people hold an inherent belief that healthy food does not taste good. Too often, when people try to make healthy habit changes, they assume that they must suffer. That's just silly. While sometimes we have to eat just for substance, 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 onslaught of food intolerances are actually a misdiagnosis because people are just too darn distracted when they're eating?!
You eat too much - both 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 even if you’ve eaten.
What can we do?
It's going to sound a little strange, but you have to practice eating.
Just eating. Nothing but eating.
But that doesn't mean that every meal needs to last an hour. Practice savoring your meal by putting on a plate (or a bowl), sitting down to eat and actually looking at what you’re eating. Pause before you dive in to see it, smell it and anticipate it just a little.
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 2 seconds to visually register what you're about it eat. You can take 2 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 make a difference.
To my friends who are chronic distracted eaters. 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 even a 15-minute 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 definitely worth it.