When was the last time you enjoyed a quiet, peaceful meal without interruption? If you can’t remember, you’re hardly alone. These days, eating a leisurely meal is a rare luxury. Sadly, for many people, eating on the run has become the norm. They gobble down meals while they text their friends, catch up on their favorite TV shows, or check to see who’s posting on Twitter and Facebook. Yet research reveals that the very act of eating in a hurry may contribute to overweight and obesity.
Here’s how: As you eat and drink, your stomach fills, activating stretch receptors in your stomach. These receptors send satiety messages to your brain via the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the stomach. Then, as food enters your small intestine, appetite hormones are released, sending additional fullness messages to your brain. This process doesn’t happen immediately, though. It can take 20 minutes—or longer—for your brain to realize it’s time to put down your fork. Eating too quickly doesn’t allow this intricate system sufficient time to work, making it easy to overeat without even realizing it.
There’s another downside to distracted eating that has nothing to do with speed. Eating while you’re busy doing other things robs you of the opportunity to fully enjoy your food, so you may not feel completely satisfied—and may keep on eating in an attempt to gain satisfaction.
Enter mindful eating
Mindful eating is the act of fully focusing on your food as you eat. It encourages you to pay closer attention to the tastes, smells, and textures of your food as well as your body’s hunger and satiety cues. As basic as it sounds, this practice is surprisingly powerful. In one small study, 10 obese volunteers enrolled in weekly mindful eating classes that focused on listening to their feelings of hunger and fullness. They also paid close attention to their cravings and emotions. Not only did the participants drop an average of 9 pounds by the end of the three-month program, but they also reported less hunger, stress, anxiety, depression, and binge eating.
In addition to savoring the flavors and aromas of your food, the following techniques can help you attain more mindful eating:
- Create a calm, beautiful space for eating. A cluttered table does not create the sense of inner tranquility you need in order to cultivate a peaceful mindset.
- At the beginning of your meal, set a timer for 20 minutes. Then pace yourself to make your meal last until the timer goes off.
- Let the answering machine take care of incoming phone calls.
- Put away all computers, phones, and reading materials, so you can concentrate on your food.
- Turn off the television, another source of distraction.
- Eat only at the kitchen or dining room table to minimize distractions.
- Think only about the bite of food you’re actually eating at that moment. It’s all too easy to think ahead to the next bite without focusing on the food that’s actually in your mouth.
- Put your fork down between bites.
- Chew each mouthful 30 times.
- Before you help yourself to seconds or dessert, ask yourself if you’re really hungry.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; …
Luke 11:28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
Ecclesiastes 7:14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
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