You might think this is a silly topic to write a post on. Sure you just put the food into your mouth and you chew it for a bit, swallow it and it goes into your stomach. Done and dusted!
It is not that simple unfortunately. There are a number of factors that go into how we eat and these can impact how we digest and absorb our food and can even derail our attempts at weight loss.
1. Eat slowly
Most of us eat too quickly. We are always in a rush. We scoff down our breakfast before going out the door every morning. We gobble up our dinner afraid that we will never see another meal in our life. This type of eating can present challenges for health, performance and body composition regardless of whether we eat healthy foods or not. Hunger and appetite signals do not kick in for 20 minutes by which time we may have eaten far too much. If we can slow down our eating, we will be more capable of noticing appetite cues and possibly noticing that we are full.
As a challenge, record how long it takes for you to eat your dinner. If it takes 5 minutes, you definitely need to slow down! We should be aiming for 15- 20 minutes. This may not be possible at first but aim to add a minute on to the next meal and gradually increase your meal time from there.
I’ll hold my hand up in this department, I have had to tailor my own eating habits and take my time as I’m quite susceptible to a bit of speed eating. It is not something that comes naturally to me, coming from a large family where being able to eat fast means you would get the extra few scraps that were available!
Helpful tips: Sit down, eliminate distractions, relax. Take smaller bites, chew the food properly. Sip water rather than drinking large gulps.
2. Eat in a calm relaxed manner
Eating when stressed is a very bad habit. We need to take time to eat and digest our food properly. Unfortunately many of us eat in stressful environments. We eat on our way to work, at our desks and when we are doing a myriad of other tasks. When we are stressed, our sympathetic (or fight or flight) nervous system is activated. This increases heart rate, releases energy and prepares the muscles for action. This also slows body processes such as digestion which are less important in emergencies. Our digestive system is not functioning optimally at this moment and any food consumed will not be digested properly.
We may be eating a healthy diet but if we are eating it in a state of stress, our digestive system will not be activated and nutrients will be lost.
When we activate the parasympathetic division, we conserve and restore. The heart rate is slowed and blood pressure is lowered. In this situation, the digestive tract is fully stimulated to process food and eliminate waste.
Helpful tips: Make time to eat in a relaxed and calm manner. Do not eat in a rush. Prioritise eating time.