This year, I turned 28 years of age and just learned how to chew my food.
Well… let me explain. Do you ever sit down to a meal and wolf the entire thing down in the hole you call your mouth? And then… take a few moments to wonder – where did all that food just go, oh well, what’s next on the agenda?
Only recently did I start taking the time to chew my food. Now, this may not seem like a novel concept to you. However, to me it’s been nothing short of life-changing. What it has done bleeds perspective into the rest of my world. Let me reflect… Being able to take the time, sit down to a full meal and focus solely on my food has brought out an interesting gamut of changes in my life and in my health. Not only has my meal time extended, but the nourishment I feel following is a complete shift.
This may seem like a really easy concept to most people and maybe you’re already doing it – but for me, I never really got to that point of adulthood. I’ve always been health-oriented and always loved food. Even really thought I enjoyed eating food, but for some reason I had this pressing sense of urgency. I always joked that I died of starvation in a previous life because of this need to consume my food quickly. It was like I couldn’t eat fast enough, and I just wanted to get everything down as quickly as possible – like it was a race. Doing so, I never really got to thoroughly appreciate my food. Now when I eat, food has become a sacred practice and eating is a cherished time I take for myself. It’s a time that I value sharing with family and friends.
In the name of science, chewing or mastication, is the first step in the digestive process. Enzymes are released in your saliva that begin breaking down food particles for digestion. Some important reasons your food should be broken down before swallowing are to avoid bacterial overgrowth in the gut, to assist in speed of food movement through your system, and to signal to your body that it’s time to digest. Simply by chewing, we send neurological messages to our organs that food is on the way and exclaim “hey – get ready!!!”
Here are some of the perks I’ve discovered from taking time to chew:
Feeling fuller faster: As you chew, your body begins to register you’re consuming food. As you may have heard, it takes longer for your stomach to signal that you’ve had enough to eat. Chewing more diligently, I’ve noticed a spike in my satiety quicker during the meal. Previously, I’ve felt like I can’t get enough food even when consuming around 2500 cal a day diet, I wasn’t feeling satisfied. Being able to chew each and every bite has given me a sense of fullness and satisfaction that I didn’t have before.
Not eating as much: Even though my calorie count is still high throughout the day, I’m now in a place where I can reduce the size of the meals. Without being distracted, I am consciously aware of how much I consume and able to have appropriate portion sizes dialed in.
Established sense of calm: Being able to chew each bite fully before moving onto the next has given me a new sense of appreciation for time, mental wellness and for my ability to find a sense of calm or peace in everything that I do. I feel this task has radiated into the rest of my life and has enabled me to take each moment with that same calm, that same appreciation and amount of time. No rush, no sense of urgency – simple enjoyment.
Improved digestion: From a health perspective, I’ve noticed my digestion has become more smooth. Allowing your body to prepare fully for the food that is to come, it signals all of the chemical responses and physiological functions that need to take place, getting primed for action.
More energy throughout the day: Masticating is the first form of digestion in your system. The better you masticate the better your body is at using less energy when digesting and processing your food. One of the major uses of energy is zapped by digestion, taking up 6-11% of your calories available for burning. Freeing up this energy allows your cells to direct power toward other things, such as repairing the body, healthy hormone function and building muscle tissue. What could you do with more energy throughout your day? Keep moving through that afternoon slump? Maintain sharp attention and focus all day? Lift your spirits up in the afternoon?
Reduces overeating: As I’ve been able to slow this process down, I don’t end up bloated, too full and having stuffed myself to the brim. Now, I just don’t have the chance. Your body becomes more aware of the food you’re taking in and will signal to put down that fork sooner than you would have previously. As you tap into how your body is responding to food and not just – oh, all that dessert looks delicious nom nom nom – you have the control to decide when you stop as opposed to mindlessly continuing to eat.
So I don’t know about you, and maybe you are 28 and have been chewing your food like your mother told you to your whole life. I commend you, because it’s not that easy. Most of the time we consume our meals on the go – at a restaurant where we’re on a timeframe or the restaurant is pushing us through a rushed meal. You’re eating at your desk, while you’re watching television and when you’re on your phone. Whatever the case may be, we do not take the time with our food that we should.
How to take more time out to chew:
Prepare your meal if possible. The interaction you have with your food will start to prepare you for its full enjoyment. Being a part of the process, knowing where your ingredients are coming from and creating the meal as if it’s a sacred practice will bring you closer to your food, insisting you slow down.
Sit in a comfortable, peaceful location. When I eat now, I dedicate the time to sit in a supportive way and in a peaceful location. Ideally this takes me outside, but if you don’t have that access then find a quiet spot away from your desk or work space. Some place that gives you time for your food only.
Get rid of screens or distractions. Don’t have a phone nearby, and focus on each and every bite as you take it. Set your work down and even set your book down. Allow yourself the chance to savor the flavor, the nutrition provided and take your time enjoying each bite with focus.
View your food as nourishment, not as a commodity. The viewpoint you bring to the table will quite literally change how your food is assimilated in your body and your experience. If you consider your meal to be just another “to do” on the list today, or something you scarf down for simple sustenance, you’re selling yourself short. Your body is primed for the correct digestion and accomodation of the nutrients it needs to thrive if you just let it do its natural thing. When you mentally don’t take the time to register the food you’re ingesting, your body won’t either.
To chew or not to chew? That is the proverbial question. Chew. As much as you can. As slowly as you can. With as much focus and dedication you apply to transitions in your yoga practice. Chew for digestion, chew for mental clarity, and chew for longevity of the body. You will not regret it.
It’s been some time since I began this practice and I find it unbelievable how it impacts your mind in relation to loving your body. I’m going to share my shower routine with you in hopes that you pick up something similar. The reason I’m sharing this with you is that we often distance ourselves mentally from the physicality of our bodies and our shapes. Like the credit card bills we don’t like to acknowledge, we tend to put the recognition of our shapely features out of our minds, so we don’t have to deal with how our bellies bulge, our upper arms wiggle and the stretch marks we’ve had for years. If I don’t see it, it’s not there, right?
Well I’d like to take you through how I acknowledge the flaws and beautiful curves of my frame each and every day. How this process has made me feel gorgeous in my own skin and how you can too.
This is my shower routine:
In the shower, I use a hand scrubby – one that fits like a glove – to gently scrub small circles all over my body with a tea-tree oil based body wash.
After the shower, I towel lightly and then dry brush my whole body. Depending on what you need at the time, dry brushing can accomplish different benefits in the body – some of which I’ve listed below. But the important point here is to take your time. Spend care going over each part of your beautiful body.
Following dry brushing, use your favorite body oil – mine is organic coconut. And massage in small circles all over that sweet sweet bod. While you massage, look at every inch of your body. Pay careful attention to stretch marks, scars and any other admonished feature you feel you have.
While you do this, be mindful of the thoughts streaming through your head. Everything running through that mind should be positive. At least that’s our goal. When we first get started, it’s easy to start thinking too much about how imperfect this body is or how we wish we didn’t have stretch marks. But the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to find positive thoughts.
Thoughts to start with:
Thank you feet, you carry me around all day and without you I’d be nowhere. Literally.
Oh calves, you are strong as can be – thanks for always lifting me up.
Dang, these thighs are killer. Oh hello cellulite. I know why you’re here, but you may not always be, so don’t get used to hanging around.
Now, this booty of mine is BEAUTIFUL. You get the brunt of all my weight as I sit throughout the day. A little lift, a soft scrub and I appreciate you booty. **An aside – Butts are just incredible and love on them as much as you can.**
Belly – I will nurture you and massage you, and boy am I thankful you hold in all my most important parts.
Breasts! Yay boobies. You are a huge expression of my womanhood and I thank you for representing me so well.
Arms, my extension, and contact with the world! Like whoa, how much I put you through – thank you for cradling my life.
Now, this is just a place to start. And you may certainly feel silly getting started saying these things. Maybe first in your head, then hopefully out loud as you appreciate each inch of your body as you move along.
Why does this help with loving your body you ask?
The more you begin to connect with your body by physically touching it, the more you will accept it – flaws and all. If you can dig in deep to each curve of your being with physical touch, radiating appreciation and gratitude you can’t help but start to see the beauty in each of your features. By adding in the mental energy, we attach thought to the physicality of our process. And these thoughts are wholly positive. What we think and what we say impacts how we feel about ourselves in the eyes of others, how we present ourselves, what we eat, whether we work out or not, and ultimately how we feel. Our thoughts impact our physical reality. In order to build a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence, we must acknowledge our body, love our body and be comfortable in our bodies. We only get one. You have the choice of how you treat it, the energy you use to fuel it, and what you do in it from day to day. It’s time to be present, it’s time to recognize and it’s time to share this beautiful form with the world through appreciation.
You’re going to want to analyze everything more closely and scrutinize the imperfections along the way. Try to hold off from doing so. If these thoughts arise, let them come up and fade away – replacing them with new, healthy positive thoughts of appreciation and love.
The most common practice of dry brushing begins at the limbs and moves towards the heart with soft, gentle strokes. Starting with the hands and the feets, work your way in towards the trunk with sweeping strokes and switch to small circular motions over the trunk.
Some benefits to Dry Brushing: (not scientifically supported necessarily, but you decide)
Stimulating the lymphatic system to assist with detoxification in the body
Encouraging circulation and increasing energy
Exfoliating the whole body – sloughing off dead skin cells
Reducing the appearance of cellulite and tightening up appearance of the skin
Independent of whether these are true for you or not – when practiced regularly, the value of taking time with your physical beauty is unparalleled. Let me know in the comments if you have any other ways of loving on your bod or if this practice is something you’d like to start!