It really is that simple.
I’m sure you’re like, “Whatever, Mom, I’ll chew my food.”
Hmmm, are you sure about that?
Or do you more or less chew your food and then wait for those teeth in your stomach to finish the job?
It’s okay. I used to think I was chewing my food too.
Then one day I enlightened my chewing and, my gosh, was I ever surprised (and terribly ashamed).
I discovered that he was a multi-tasking chewer and that he ate fast.
He would chew a mouthful several times and then take a large gulp of water to swallow it.
Worse still, I would chew one bite and then put another bite in my mouth before swallowing the previous one. I was a double biter!
No wonder I often shoved my bloated Buddha belly away from the table, belching, moaning, and silently cursing for overeating.
Eat fast, feel bad
Not chewing well puts a strain on your digestive system, making your gut work like a dog to digest food.
It takes 24 to 72 hours to fully digest food (eat some red beets to see for yourself). Our fast-paced culture leads to fast-paced eating that is totally out of sync with our slow-paced digestive system. As a result, we suffer from indigestion, bloating, belching, gas, cramps, acid reflux, dirty sleep, low energy, excess weight, and other unpleasant side effects.
Is eating fast worth feeling like crap?
The best digestive aid
When suffering from digestive upset, many try to remedy the problem with a handful of Tums and other digestive aids and pain relievers rather than addressing its source, which could simply be a lack of chewing.
Digestion begins in the mouth. The act of chewing sends a signal to your gastrointestinal system to begin preparing for digestion, thus speeding up the process. And the more you chew, the longer you expose your food to saliva, which contains powerful enzymes that aid in digestion. Saliva also makes food more alkaline, which creates less gas.
Protect your pipe
Mom repeatedly told us to chew our food so we don’t choke on a hot dog or get our throats pierced with a Dorito. The breakdown of food into smaller particles not only prevents suffocation, but also causes less stress on the esophagus. If you find yourself frequently sipping a drink to dump the bits of food stuck in your pipe, it’s time to slow down.
More nutrients, less gas
Chewing food well increases the assimilation of nutrients. When it comes down to it, you are not what you eat, you are what you absorb.
Large chunks of unchewed food are difficult to break down completely, leading to incomplete digestion and poor nutrient absorption. Undigested food feeds bacteria in the colon that cause bacterial overgrowth, gas, and other digestion problems.
Also, when you eat fast, you swallow air that makes you feel gassy, bloated, and frankly grumpy.
Satisfaction with less
It takes about 20 minutes for food to digest enough to release the hormones that tell your brain that you are full. By chewing more, you will automatically eat more slowly, giving your head a chance to register fullness before reaching seconds. Instead of feeling like a stuffed turkey, you’ll feel lighter, energetic, satisfied, and full with much less food.
Eating slower creates more space to enjoy a relaxing meal (sadly a rare treat for most).
By taking the time to savor your food and focus on the act of eating, you will be rewarded with a very meditative experience. Your food will even taste better. However, the opposite can happen. You may find that those fast food burgers and fries aren’t as tasty as you thought when you eat them slowly. Anyone want a cold Big Mac? As a result, you will begin to choose higher quality foods to ensure maximum enjoyment.
Explosion of sugar cravings
Chewing releases the sweet taste of whole-grain carbohydrates. The more you chew them, the sweeter they will become. Chewing healthy carbohydrates like brown rice well can satisfy your sweet tooth and reduce your cravings for sugary treats.
Chewing more sounds simple, but doing so is a bit more challenging. It requires presence, practice and commitment and, at first, a lot of patience. I promise you, the results are worth it and it will soon become second nature.
Here are some tips for cultivating this healthy habit:
1. Set aside a large amount of time to eat, at least 30 to 60 minutes.
2. Create a quiet and distraction-free environment. You can’t focus on chewing if you’re reading email, driving, or watching TV. Sit at a table, light a candle, play some soothing tunes, hide your phone, dine outside.
3. Take small cocks.
4. Put silverware or food between bites. I like to rest my hands on my lap.
5. Chew food until it dissolves enough to swallow easily (without the help of a drink).
I don’t prescribe a set amount of chews per bite. On average, most people chew a bite less than 10 times. Unless you are eating yogurt, this is probably not enough. I struggle to chew until my food is blended or has the consistency of baby food. This works best for me. Tune into your current habit, experiment with different foods, and get an idea of what is right for you.
6. As you chew, close your eyes and watch the taste and texture change. It is quite fascinating.
7. Resist the urge to swallow too soon. This process will feel painfully slow and strange at first. Be patient, curious, and engaged.
8. Minimize drinks with your food if you regularly use them to swallow food without chewing. Drinking while eating is also believed to decrease the effects of digestive juices.
9. Start by practicing alone or with a slower partner, as it can be challenging at first to put this into practice when dining with other people.
10. Observe how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally at the end of your meal and the hours and days that follow.
Once you learn to chew longer and experience the benefits, eating in a hurry becomes quite unpleasant. You will also be surprised when you start to notice how quickly other people devour their food. Don’t judge, because you were once a fast eater too. Send them some slower vibrations and refocus on yourself remembering that we are all on our own mindful eating path.