Digestion begins in the mind

This week’s lesson out of The Slow Down Diet was about “The Metabolic Power of Awareness.” In other words, pay attention to your food while you are eating it. Seems simple enough, but apparently it’s not, because most of us don’t do it. Or maybe we think it’s too simple, and that’s why we insist on multitasking during meals and snacks by adding other activities: Watching TV, driving, reading, working, walking, texting, etc.
Studies show that our digestion decreases when we’re distracted, so it’s better for our bodies to be aware of the food we’re putting in our mouth. When we eat mindlessly (which is easy to do when you’re multitasking), you’re more likely to eat more food without noticing how much you’ve eaten, or whether you’re even still hungry. So paying attention is better for your waistline, too.
Jeff and I rarely eat in front of the television, mostly because we don’t watch much TV to begin with. But we run about 50-50 when it comes to carrying our dinner to the couch during our Saturday movie night. What I read in this chapter persuaded me to put and end to that pastime, stat.
I’ll admit, I enjoyed paying more attention to my food this week. Even a simple bowl of oatmeal is more interesting when you really notice the shreds of coconut contrast with the texture of the grains, and how the dollop of almond butter melts into the crevices on the warm surface. And really, since I make a point of preparing delicious, healthy food with quality ingredients, why shouldn’t I be paying attention so I can fully enjoy my meals? On the flip side, if I was eating crap, paying attention to my food might make me more aware of that fact, possibly grossing me out and making me change my ways!
The hardest part of this week was not reading while I eat. I admit, when dining solo I love nothing more than settling in with good food and a good book or magazine. I was good, though, caving only once when I made the mistake of leaving a cookbook right next to me on the table during lunch. I don’t know that I’ll continue to eat all my solo meals book-free, but I will at least make a point of pausing several times during the meal to focus all my attention on the food.
I like the idea of eating as meditation. Just as meditating on an object, a word, or your breath can focus and calm your mind, I see no reason why focusing on a meal can’t serve the same purpose. In the middle of a hectic day, or at the end of it, taking the time to breath deeply and eat slowly with awareness can be calming and nourishing for both body and mind.