Lots of evidence supports the health benefits of enjoying your food. The French are famous for spending loads of time on their meals, savoring delicious rich dishes, yet they don’t have the obesity problem we do. The French spend more than 2 hours per day eating and drinking. Americans spend 1 hour. Studies show that eating under stress or with other stimuli reduces the absorption of certain minerals. Also, how you view your food also affects how much nutrition you get from your food. The cephalic phase of digestion is the term for your brain's reaction to the anticipation of food. More digestive acids and enzymes are produced when you anticipate delicious, appealing food. These chemicals help absorb vitamins and minerals found in food. So enjoying nutritious food that is delicious and appealing to you ends up benefiting you more than choking down a nutritious but unwanted meal.
Besides savoring your food, it also pays to listen to your body as you eat. Using a scale from one to ten, you can rate your hunger and fullness levels. Paying attention to what we really physically need when it comes to food is key to long-term good health. Before you eat, assess what level of hunger you are at. While eating, check in with your body to see how full you are getting. It's generally best for meals to start eating at a 3 and end at a 6 or 7. When we get too hungry (say 1 or 2) we tend to eat so quickly that we over shoot how much food we really need, and end up at an 8, 9 or 10.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0 = Starving – ravenous, dizzy, no energy to move
1 = Famished – light headed, weak, can't concentrate
2 = Painfully hungry – stomach pain, irritable
3 = Strong hunger – stomach growling
4 = Slightly uncomfortable - 1st signs of hunger
5 = Neutral – not hungry, not full
6 = Comfortable – satisfied
7 = Full
8 = Uncomfortably full – definitely should have stopped eating sooner.
9 = Stuffed – painfully full, tired, sluggish
10 = Sick – so full and bloated that you feel nauseous.
The more mindful we are as we eat, and the more enjoyment we find in food. More enjoyment means stress levels will decrease and we will be less likely to plough through the ice cream pint or the bag of cheese puffs - thoughtlessly eating our way to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The take home message is that multi-tasking may actually end up multiplying your health problems. Plan in time for food and allow it to not only nourish your body, but your soul.