January 31, 2012

Eating Isn't a Drag Race, Friends.

See Chewy sitting there so nice and serenely? He's great. And I want you to think of him in this picture every time you sit down to eat a meal.

Here's what I saw two days ago, and served as a good reminder.


Young man, late twenties. Sitting down in a cafe bent over in front of a cardboard carton of 
food on the table in front of him--he's bent over at a 45 degree angle. I didn't know the 
human spine could bend like that.

Spoon in his hand with the grip of a toddler mastering fine motor skills, he shovels the contents of the cardboard carton into his mouth at consistent intervals---raise spoon, insert food into mouth, chew once, bring spoon down, bring back to mouth, chew once, swallow, lower spoon, raise spoon, insert, chew, swallow, lower spoon, raise spoon...

This went on for 4 minutes.

And then he was finished with his lunch.


Except there was no trophy waiting for him, for 1st place. Just some indigestion, I'm guessing. And who knows what else.

Chew Your Food.

Like, really. I mean it.

Shoveling food into your mouth, giving it a gnaw and swallowing it whole before replacing it with more food isn't feeding yourself. If you tell me you have 5 minutes to eat and this is the only way you can get food in your body, I will tell you that you need to change whatever in your life is creating that reality because your body isn't benefitting from that food, anyway.

Chewing is important. Digestion of nutrients starts with food being broken-down by saliva in our mouths. Not our guts. True, there is acid down there in the gut, HCL to be exact. And drinking a ton of water or soda or juice with your meal dilutes your HCL so drink about 15 minutes after you've finished your meal.

And HCL helps break chewed food down into smaller pieces and bits--and those bits travel along your digestive tract (small and large intestine) before they arrive in your colon for elimination.

But it all starts with your teeth. Vegetarians and vegans, we can agree to disagree that we don't have molars for breaking down meat from animals. I use mine. And meat makes my body happy for a number of reasons. But regardless of your dietary preferences, you need to chew any kind of food that you're ingesting. And you need to chew it well.

Consider this:

1) if you don't chew and break your food down (literally reducing the size and shape of it), it builds up in your belly and won't break down in your stomach or intestines. It sits there, bulky and undigested. Painful gas and constipation can ensue. Ouch.

2) if you aren't chewing, it means you aren't prioritizing eating as an essential part of your work or school day. And since you need to eat food to continue living on this planet, not making time for it each day is just plain silly.

3) some studies show it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate with your brain that you've eaten and your stomach is nearing full. If you're rushing and shoving food down quickly, you can literally swallow way more than you need before you even know you've reached capacity! Anyone struggling with weight loss? This might be helpful for you. Maybe your pace AND your portions need reconsidering. 

Think of those competitive hot dog eaters. Think they chew all those dogs before swallowing? Best way to lose that game.

Save that for Joey Chestnut:

ranked first[1] in the world by the International Federation of Competitive Eating

Everyday life isn't a drag race.

Eating isn't a competition. It shouldn't be a test of wills against your growling stomach--how many hours you can work or sit in class before taking time to rest, relax and ingest much-needed nutrients.

Carve out time every day, at least 30 minutes for each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner), and chew each bite from your fork or spoon 20 times before swallowing and bringing more food into your mouth.

Put your fork down between bites to really challenge yourself at completing this exercise.

Chill and Be Like Chewy. ;)

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