We seem to hear every day about what to eat, what not to eat, but what we don’t hear is that an important part of eating for a long life is to enjoy your food.
Many people don’t eat for enjoyment or nourishment. They eat because they’re nervous or bored or frustrated or because at 3:30 pm it is just a habit to take a break and have a candy bar. Some people feel they just have to eat for no real reason at all. In the modern world, eating is habit, ritual, therapy, and relaxation. All this is well intended, but at what cost to your health.
Sometimes the problem is merely hectic living. Do you eat so fast that you can’t remember what you’ve consumed, mindlessly nibble while watching TV, or find yourself gobbling fast-food meals in the car while you drive? While all of us eat on the run occasionally, if you make a practice of eating quickly and without pleasure, you will miss out on the profound life – and health – enhancing joys of the table.
In cultures where people live long and healthy lives, meals are an event. In Japan, for example, Okinawans look for meaning in food and in meals. Instead of throwing a box of grocery-store cookies on the table when guests arrive. Okinawans respectfully serve tea. Gathering around the table is a social time as much as a time for food. There is more conversation, more time between bites of rice or fish or vegetables. When this type of meal is over, you leave the table with a full belly and a full heart.
Eating slowly – and savoring the colors, textures, temperatures, and flavors of the foods before you – enhances digestion, discourages overeating, and promotes relaxation. Sharing a meal or snack with friends is a stress-reducing opportunity to reconnect. Now take the pleasure a step or two further. Shop unhurriedly for fresh ingredients and enjoy the sensual experience of washing, chopping, and cooking them to create a wonderful experience for yourself and others.
Each of us has deeply embedded habits and prejudices regarding food. Our message: Reconsider the role of food in your life. Are you eating merely out of habit? Is food providing solace for insecurities frustrations? How many times per day to gobble down food mindlessly, without the flavor even registering?
Be a mindful eater. Don’t focus just on the right foods but also on the right reasons to eat – for nourishment , health, social ritual, and of course enjoyment. A bag of potato chips may sound like the right medicine for a tough day, but we suggest hugs or a walk instead – followed by a healthy sit down meal with someone you love.
Eating slowly and mindfully will also benefit your waistline. By listening to your body and letting your body catch up to your brain, you will have a better understanding of when you are full and stopping before you have overeaten. The same way knowing when our bodies tell us when to eat and when we are truly hungry is another benefit.
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