Research indicates that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help people with weight problems. Becoming more aware of what we eat could also potentially steer us towards healthier choices when it comes to food. A more mindful approach to eating would see us more focused on the process of eating and the gift of the food itself. Mindfulness stems from the Buddhist tradition and is about becoming fully aware of all that is happening around you at the moment. Such a focused approach to food and the eating of it is the opposite of what most people do in a very busy and deadline driven world. Two mindful eating experts Ronna Kabatznick, assistant professor in the psychiatry department in the University of California and Camille Nghiem-Phu a Toroto-based naturopathic doctor have completed interesting work in this area. They have emphasised the importance of proper chewing, the timing of meals and recognising feelings of fullness.
Many people eat during the day without sufficient awareness of these dimensions to eating. When we eat, the stomach organ release parts of the food to the small intestine in short spurts. When the small intestine senses food entering, it releases a hormone called cholecystokin (CCK) into the bloodstream. This signals to the stomach to slow down the rate of these short spurts. CCK also signals to the brain that we are full and that we can stop eating. When we gobble our food down in a hurry not only do we miss out on taste but the small intestine cannot keep up. It is as if the system of digestion trips over itself in the rush. The hormone CCK doesn’t get released into the bloodstream to let us know when we have ate enough. By eating more slowly our digestive system can release the appropriate hormones and enzymes for optimal digestion. We should be more mindful of our eating – noticing the colour, smells, flavours and textures of the food on our plates. This is a habit that with practice can be formed and make a big difference .
When I was young we had to come to the table when called for dinner by mother. There was no microwave and dinner would become cold if we failed to respond. Nowadays, I wonder how many families even sit at the same table for dinner. I remember witnessing a frustrated wife chastising her husband for not knowing what she had cooked him. He ate it so quickly while rushing back to work that it had escaped him whether it as chops of salmon! Indeed, a small but growing body of research suggests that by eating more slowly or in a more thoughtful fashion, we alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.
Before we can become more mindful when eating we need to rid ourselves of distractions like television and mobile phones.. Lilian Cheung, a nutritionist and lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health, made her case for mindful eating as a means to shedding pounds in her book “Savour: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life,” which she co-wrote with Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Thousands of people wish to be slimmer and spend their money and energy on diets but becoming more mindful of what and how they eat may provide the avenue to fitting into the smaller sized dress or jeans.
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