The eating experience is about consuming appetising food that not only nourishes you but enables you to pause, reflect and digest the food you are eating. Consider what time you eat, how quickly you eat, what position you eat in and who you eat with as all part of the eating journey. These are important factors to consider if you are trying to improve eating habits or experiencing digestive symptoms.
The initial phase of the digestive process occurs well before food touches your lips. It involves food association through seeing and smelling and is when 30% of your pancreatic enzymes and about 20% of your stomach acid is produced. This means that the sourcing, preparing and cooking of food is an important part of the digestive process. Consuming prepared foods somewhat short circuits this process.
You can stimulate the initial phase by simply looking, smelling and sitting with your meal before the tasting begins. Sitting calmly with your food prior to the commencement of eating is also a great time to practice gratitude, either internally or with the people you are sitting with. Sharing a meal also potentially slows the rate at which you eat and enables you to better savour your meal. The goal is eating when you feel calm, relaxed and present – in a parasympathetic state – the ‘rest and digest’ state.
Ideally, you want to chew every mouthful to a puree-like state before swallowing. Chewing is mechanical digestion and once swallowed digestion occurs predominantly as a chemical process. It involves acids and enzymes secreted by the stomach, pancreas and biliary system. Slowing down the eating experience also allows satiety hormones to signal back to the brain the feeling of ‘being full’.
Multi-tasking through a meal – such as scrolling your social media or working – takes you out of the parasympathetic and into the ‘fight or flight’ state impacting your digestion.
Eating mindfully is a great objective to have and may improve gut symptoms related to poor eating habits.
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