(CARLSBAD, CA) – Count calories, limit carbs, cut-down on saturated fat, increase fruits and vegetables. You know all the right things to eat. But, have you ever considered how you eat?
That’s right! How you eat may be just as important as what you eat. If your typical culinary habits include eating lunch in the car, grabbing dinner over the stovetop while serving the kids, then snacking in front of the TV, your digestion – and your waistline – may be paying the price.
Why is mindful eating so important? According to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in Manhattan, mindful eating can actually improve your digestion by 30-40 percent. That’s because digestion begins in the brain. Seeing and smelling your food kicks off the digestive process. Blood is sent to the digestive organs. Gastric acid is primed and ready to break down food as it makes its way to your stomach.
But, let’s say that your breakfast involves ravenously diving into a croissant while racing from the parking lot to your office. Since your brain has less time to react, the food is not fully broken down in the digestive process, and it sits more heavily in your stomach.
Eating mindfully – chewing slowly, savoring each bite, taking time to enjoy the tastes and smells of your food – may seem impractical to you. So, don’t try to change every habit tomorrow. Instead, set a goal of eating one or two meals at a leisurely pace within the next week. Jazzercise Founder and CEO Judi Sheppard Missett offers these tips to help you get started:
Check-in with your body – Before you sit down to eat, take a moment to notice your hunger level. At various times throughout your meal, pause and check-in with your hunger level. Quit eating when you are reasonably full, not stuffed. Remember that it takes about 20 minutes for your body to tell your brain that you are no longer hungry.
Create a dining experience – Instead of eating on a TV tray while watching Katie Couric’s nightly broadcast, sit down at your dining table. Light a few candles, turn-on some jazz music, and enjoy your restaurant experience at home.
Take inventory of your food – Before you begin eating, take a moment to enjoy your food using a variety of senses. Look at the colors and textures. Smell the aromas. Your first bite will be that much more satisfying.
Chew your food – Yes, really chew your food. Try chewing each bite 15-20 times. Use your teeth, tongue, and saliva to begin breaking down food in the digestive process. Your food will sit lighter in your stomach. And you’ll notice that you’re full before you polish off an entire platter of chicken fried steak!
Put on the brakes – If speed-eating is an art form for you, try a few tricks to slow yourself down. Eat with chopsticks. Hold your fork with your non-dominant hand. Set your utensils down on your plate between bites.
Choose one meal this week for a mindful eating experience. Go ahead. Pick one. Mark your calendar. You may find that you enjoy the experience and want to replicate it more often.
Jazzercise, created by Judi Sheppard Missett, is the world's leading dance-fitness program with more than 7,500 instructors teaching 32,000 classes weekly in the U.S. and around the globe. Since 1969, millions of people of all ages and fitness levels have reaped the benefits of this comprehensive program, designed to enhance cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. For more information on Jazzercise go to jazzercise.com or call (800)FIT-IS-IT or (760)476-1750.