Below I am going to explain WHY slowing down with eating is so important for you.
If you haven't got time to read all that right now, here is a really effective way to slow down that avoids the dreaded "Chew 20 times" nightmare advice from self-proclaimed experts who have absolutely no idea how hard that is (counting your chews is stressful, which compounds the problem).
Before the first 5 mouthfuls of each meal you eat today, I want you to take a deep breath.
You can use the 5-1-5 or 4-7 breath if you like.
This is a very doable technique and you can with practice it so nobody notices, if you happen to be at an important dinner.
Try it and see if you feel more relaxed and are eating more slowly than usual.
Another technique is to set a minimum time to eat a meal or snack. Make it about 30% slower than your normal speed to start off with. You have multiple times a week you can practise this and get better. It really is a practice, not a perfect
I have more slow eating games for you coming up, but start off with these two for now.
Why We Need To Eat Slowly
Humankind has evolved its technological advances far faster than the pace of its own biological evolution. This means that we live in a world of overstimulation and stress, too stressful for our brains - that are really still wired for cave dwelling times. The only equipment we have to deal with stress is the fight or flight response, which is designed to deal with immediate life-threatening situations such as an aggressive tiger. Whenever we perceive a threat (real or imagined), our primitive brain switches to the stress response. Adrenaline, cortisol and insulin flood the mind and body. Perception of time changes: the cortisol makes us think that we have no time; we are receptive not to pleasure but pain, and hyper-ready to take action.
When you're facing a frozen computer or workplace conflict, this is bad enough - but it gets worse. One of the side-effects of the stress response is that digestion shuts down. Nutrients are excreted, the release of insulin signals the body to store fat, healthy intestinal bacteria are destroyed, less thyroid hormone is produced, and muscle mass is decreased.
Let's not vilify the stress response - we wouldn't have survived all those man eating tigers without it. The fact is that the human body is only designed to experience stress for 2 to 4 minutes (because your primitive brain knows that something is going to happen in that time - either you get the tiger, you get away, or the tiger gets you). The problem is that many people are living in a state of constant low-level chronic stress - they think it's a fact of life and inescapable. They are unwittingly choosing to live in a state of digestive and weight loss disaster.
The thing about fast eating is that even if you are feeling quite chilled, a speedy snack or hasty meal will automatically put your body into a stress response.
But all is not lost. The superhero in this situation is the relaxation response. This is how we are naturally meant to live 99% of the time. Just as the stress response shuts down digestion, the relaxation response ramps it up: nutrients are absorbed fully, muscle mass is increased, healthy bacteria repopulate the gut, thermic efficiency (your ability to burn calories) rises - as well as a whole host of other beautiful side-effects.
Where does slow eating come in? Well, just as fast eating puts us into a biological stress response, slowing down helps put us into the relaxation response. I have found that merely focusing on slowing down for mealtimes acts like an emotional oasis in the middle of a manic day – well, that’s the effect I aim for. I don’t always get there, but I have been surprised at how I can relax my whole being just by focusing on slow(er) meals.
In your efforts to slow your eating down, you may have noticed something: certain foods are harder to slow down with than others. I put these tricky foodstuffs into two categories:
#1 Trigger Foods
A trigger food is something that you are addicted to, or experience strong cravings for. Common examples are:
• crisps (or chips in the USA)
• any high sugar food
• foods containing wheat or gluten, like bread
Your own personal trigger foods may be on this list; they may not. My personal definition of a trigger food is something that I have no stop button for. My stomach is saying no more, and my brain replies tough!
I know that a common piece of advice when it comes to things like chocolate and cake is to take a tiny little bit and eat it very, very slowly - really savour it. Indeed I know plenty of people who can do this…I'm just not one of them. I make this point because it's really easy to see yourself as inadequate because you cannot savour that tiny little bit of delicious, socially acceptable food. The truth might be that it's just something that - like a glass of wine for an alcoholic - is just too challenging for you. Having successfully weaned myself off chocolate, there is no way I would ever have any more - because my history with it is just too extreme and out-of-control.
Knowing what you can and cannot manage is very liberating. If you're not sure of this, then why not give yourself a break from those foods that have no ‘stop button’ for you. Give yourself the chance to build up your slow eating skills with less addictive meals and snacks.
#2 Infantile Foods
Claude Clotaire Rapaille, in his very readable The Culture Code, describes how the USA – and increasingly, the rest of the developed and developing world, is very fond of what he calls infantile foods: fries, ice cream, soda drinks, hamburgers etc. Yes, of course that is junk food – but I think it’s very helpful to think of these foods as infantile. They are very, very easy to overeat.
For both trigger foods and infantile foods, you may well be on a mission impossible trying to slow down with them.
I'm not telling you to cut certain items out of your diet (that must come from you) - instead I'm telling you to build up your slow eating skills with less challenging foodstuffs.
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