Do you chew your food?
I guess the better question might be, how long do you chew your food? I have always been a quick eater, especially when I was on a binge. It only got worse after the birth of my son. Like a lot of moms, I shoveled down food while balancing my son on my knee or rushed through a meal while he napped. I even hid in my bedroom at times so I could enjoy a snack without it being drooled on or having to share it!
I have tried to slow down, but it is a hard habit to break. I haven’t given up the hiding, however, when I don’t want to share my treat or tempt my now-10-year-old with more candy corn pumpkins. (I know, I know, you think they are gross!)
If you grew up struggling with disordered eating or poor body image, chances are you have mixed emotions about the experience of eating. Since giving myself the liberty to eat what I like rather than restricting and labeling my food, I find that I can enjoy it more. When certain foods are taboo and we are always trying to control our behavior around food, I believe it affects our psychological response to the eating experience. When food is no longer bad or forbidden, it loses its power and appeal, and it may be easier to slow down, chew it, and enjoy it.
As it turns out, how long you chew your food has a big affect on your relationship with food and your digestion. In her book, Go With Your Gut, Robyn Youkilis tells a story of man in a German concentration camp forced into very hard labor, with very little food. He figured out along the way, that if he chewed his food 150 times before swallowing it, he would feel more fully satisfied, more energized, and warmer. He shared this discovery with the other 32 men in his camp. Only two others were interested and decided to join him. After two years in the camp, the prisoners were liberated by the U.S. Army. Of the 32 original men, guess who survived and went home to their families? The three men who diligently chewed their food.
You see, when you don’t chew, you don’t give your body time to do what it was made to do. The stomach doesn’t register that you are eating until you’ve been doing it for about 20 minutes, and I have to admit, I’m typically done with my meal well before 20 minutes have passed. Also, a lack of chewing doesn’t give the saliva in your mouth a chance to begin breaking down your food, and your stomach isn’t able to digest food like your teeth can.
I get it, most of us do not have the luxury of chewing each bite of food 150 times before swallowing, and maybe most of us don’t find that notion appealing anyway. However, if you could determine to try chewing at least 20 times before swallowing, you will find that it makes a huge difference, not just with your digestion, but also with your ability to enjoy your meal.
I am learning more and more from personal struggles and experiences just how closely our brains and tummies are connected. Your state of mind has a profound affect on your digestion. I often wake up in the middle of the night feeling famished with a very uncomfortable stomach. I have had an ultra sound, endoscopy, and blood work done to try to diagnose the problem. None of these tests showed any physical issues. My counselor has been trying to help me understand the very real effects stress and anxiety can have on our stomachs and digestive processes.
One way to check in with yourself is through your eating style. If you are like me, always rushing through meals, you are probably fueling that stress. Calming ourselves around food and taking time to chew really helps us to connect with our bodies and to feed it both physically and emotionally. One word of caution: don’t allow chewing to become another repressive and obsessive behavior like dieting. Allow taking time to chew to become a form of self-care; a way to love and care for the body Christ has given you, while enjoying the blessing of a good meal.