Nowadays I’m hearing these words a lot more as a medical student interning at a gastrointestinal center.
Chewing one’s food is an important component of ‘mindful eating,’ a buzz term often used during conversations about nutrition, IBS, IBD, weight loss and general lifestyle.
Mindful eating helps us slow down, focus, enjoy our food, avoid overeating and give our bodies the TLC they deserve during mealtimes.
While all of us can benefit from mindful eating, it's especially important for people living with gastrointestinal upset because it helps manage annoying symptoms, such as bloating, burping, constipation and diarrhea.
There are lots of tips and tricks for turning mindless into mindful eating, but here are a few our patients and I have found to be particularly effective and easy:
- Chew your food and eat slowly. Fibrous foods, such as whole nuts, popcorn, and raw vegetables don’t break down any more than we chew them. Large pieces of undigested food can cause bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, constipation and blockages in people with gastrointestinal strictures. Slow down by counting 20 bites before swallowing or eating with your non-dominant hand.
- Disconnect. When it's time to eat, turn off your phone, walk away from your computer, close your book, and ditch your chatty coworker. Sit down and tune in to the meal or snack in front of you. Taste, smell, and enjoy your food.
- Set a plan of attack when eating out. Restaurants are designed to make us thoughtlessly overeat. Some of my favorite ways to eat mindfully at restaurants include requesting a seat away from a TV, asking for a doggy bag to come with the meal, and substituting a bread basket with more water. If you choose to eat the free chips or bread then make sure to order your main course before munching away.
- Create a relaxing environment. Ever wonder why fast food joints crank the music and lights up high? It’s to make you eat faster and leave sooner. Find or create a quiet environment where you can relax. Your gut and your waistline will thank you.
- Drink water. Water is key for preventing constipation and aiding in weight loss. Sip water before and during meals to feel full faster and to prevent overeating or eating too quickly at mealtimes.