Mindful Eating, Happy Stomach

Giving your normal eating habits a second thought

Digestion is a resource-intensive task. It requires a lot of energy from the body, leaving less energy for other activities. When you eat more than you need, your body is going to work in overtime to digest all that food and you probably won’t feel too great in the meantime, i.e. food coma. 😴

Crushing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to the dome then vegging out on the sofa, half-watching The Office is one of life’s great pleasures, don’t get me wrong. But by paying more attention to how you eat on a day-to-day basis, you can increase your enjoyment and appreciation of food, and feel better overall in the short and long term…

Eating mindfully

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s easier said than done. Eating is such an automatic process that it can be surprisingly tough to stay aware of how you are eating. To start adjusting your normal routine, try the following:

  • Chew more 😬 Chew each bite a little longer than you normally would. Resist the urge to queue up the next bite. Chewing more means you’ll break down your food more before it reaches your stomach, which means less work for the rest of your digestive system, which means more overall energy for you. It also slows you down so that your body can recognize it is full before you overdo it.
  • Drink water 💧 Yeah, don’t forget to drink that high-quality H2O. This tactic does three things: helps to slow your habitual eating habits between bites, may help with digestion, and will help you feel full faster. (Learn more)
  • Taste more 😋 Give flavor more of your attention and you may discover deeper tastes and pleasures in food you had taken for granted or perhaps never noticed in the first place. If you don’t mind looking a little odd, close your eyes to enhance your taste perception. By taking the time to truly savor your meal you will increase your enjoyment and appreciation of food.
  • Stop multi-tasking 📺 Multi-tasking does not pair well with a mindful eating habit. If you want to experience a deeper sense of what you are eating, you need to give it your full attention. Just leave the phone in your pocket, leave the TV off for 30 minutes, and it will become much easier to focus on and ultimately enjoy your food.

Knowing when you’re full

Okinawa, Japan has the world’s highest proportion of centenarians, and is one of the five blue zones of the world. One of the defining characteristics of their diet is a tradition known as hara hachi bu. It roughly translates to “eat until 80% full.” It is a pretty blunt dietary recommendation but it would be a mistake to overlook it. The take-away is that you should not be eating until your stomach is literally full. Part of how the stomach digests food is by churning it around. If the stomach is 100% full, digestion becomes more difficult, and requires more time and energy from your body. It has also been pointed out that by continuously stretching your stomach, you require more food to feel full even if you have already well-satisfied your body’s nutritional requirements. Consider this passage from the book, Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest:

“There is a significant calorie gap between when an American says, ‘I’m full’ and an Okinawan says, ‘I’m no longer hungry.’ We gain weight insidiously, not stuffing ourselves, but eating a little bit too much each day — mindlessly.”

Wasting less

The Nutrition Source at Harvard said it best: “Learning to eat in accordance with your hunger, and avoiding overeating, has benefits for both your waistline and for the environment.” Check out what Harvard has to say for more perspective on food waste.

Ben Saff is a reader, writer, musician, and technologist currently living in Philadelphia. He makes music in the alternative rock band, Kintsugi. He has only a casual interest in nutrition and should not be taken too seriously. He welcomes any and all fact-checks, criticisms, and contradictions. Also, he really does not want you to feel guilty the next time you eat and only wishes for you to be happy and healthy. ✌️

“Everyone has their own reality in which, if one is not too cautious, timid or frightened, one swims” — Henry Miller

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