By: Erin Kukura, MS, RD
UCSD Recreation Dietitian
Take a moment to reflect on your last meal experience. Were you in a nice environment, felt relaxed, thoroughly enjoyed and tasted your food, and felt satisfied at the end? Or, were you like most of us, eating quickly, not even remembering what you ate?
We are all so incredibly busy and stressed. What we eat and how we eat is often at the bottom of our priority list. Now, I’m guilty of eating quickly at my desk on occasion. But, I think it’s always a good reminder to slow down when we can, especially when it comes to eating.
Eating more slowly has a host of benefits including, tasting and savoring the meal, feeling more satisfied and improved digestion. Because our gut and brain are directly connected via the vagus nerve, increased stress has been linked to increases in GI disturbances. Therefore, the more relaxed our eating experience is, the easier it is to digest food and possibly decrease GI issues.
Here are a few ways to practice slowing down while you are eating:
- Minimize distractions – Oftentimes our meals are centered around anything but the meal. Checking e-mail, scrolling through our phone, Instagram or watching Netflix, try to minimize these distractions around meal times. Even better try eating with others or enjoy your lunch outside! The change in scenery and time with others will likely slow down how quickly you eat.
- Eat with others – Eating with others not only is a great way to connect with others, but we automatically tend to slow down while eating because it’s difficult (not to mention rude) to talk with food in our mouth. Try to schedule lunch breaks with co-workers or planned family meals in the evening without the TV and phones to detract from the conversation.
- Chew your food! – Digestion starts in the mouth. We physically begin to chew and break down our food into smaller pieces to facilitate digestion. We also release digestive enzymes in saliva (salivary amylase) that begins the breakdown of starches into smaller carbohydrates.When we eat quickly, and don’t thoroughly chew, we end up digesting larger pieces of food. You can start to slow down by aiming to chew each bite 5 times, gradually working up to 10 chews.
- Place your fork down between bites – Another tactic to slow down while eating is to take the time to place your utensil down in between bites. Oftentimes, when we’re eating quickly, we haven’t even swallowed our first bite of food before we’re taking another bite. Practice placing your fork down in between bites to savor the current bite.
- Bring awareness to your senses – Bringing awareness to what you’re eating can also enhance your eating experience and slow down your eating. Check in with you hunger and fullness levels before, during and after the meal. Take notice of different senses, what does the food smell like, what is the temperature, texture and flavor, and does it change throughout the eating process? You may find by bringing more awareness you have a better idea of when you’re full, or maybe the texture and flavor is no longer as pleasing to you.
Try some of these tips our on your next eating experience. Over time, you may find you slow down your eating and have a more enjoyable experience!
If you’d like assistance on your journey to well-being or feel that you would like to improve your relationship with food feel free to contact the Recreation Dietitian, Erin Kukura, MS, RD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on services go to: https://recreation.ucsd.edu/wellness-services/nutrition/.
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