A Zen’s-Eye View: Mindful eating is slow eating

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Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Creston’s ZenWords Zen Centre. For more information

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Creston’s ZenWords Zen Centre. For more information

You may have heard of slow food proponents who recommend avoiding processed foods and eating only natural foods. They have a good idea, but they forget to mention how important it is to eat those slow foods slowly. Many of us rush through meals with a gobble-gulp-and-go attitude that leads to stressful, unhealthy living.

With the simple but powerful act of eating slower, we calm our lives down and step away from excessive busyness. It takes a few minutes extra each meal, and yet it can have profound effects. All you have to do is take smaller bites, chew each bite more slowly and more fully, and enjoy your meal longer. There are some practical reasons to consider the simple act of eating slower.

Weight loss. A growing number of studies confirm that by eating slower, you’ll consume fewer calories — in fact, enough to lose 20 pounds a year without doing anything different or changing your diet. It takes about 20 minutes for our brains to register that we’re full. If we eat fast, we often continue eating past the point where we’ve had enough. If we eat slowly, we have time to realize we’re full, and stop earlier.

Enjoy your food. It’s hard to enjoy your food if it goes by too quickly. Think about it. You want to eat your favourite foods because they taste good. But if you eat them fast, what’s the point? If you eat them slowly, you can get the same amount of taste, but with less food entering your stomach. The math works. Slow eating enhances the gastronomic pleasures of eating.

Better digestion. If you eat slower, you chew your food better, which leads to better more nutrients being absorbed in the mouth. Digestion actually starts in the mouth, so the more work you do there, the less you’ll have to do in your stomach. This can result in fewer digestion problems.

Less stress. Eating slowly and paying attention to our eating is a great mindfulness exercise. It is the perfect place to practice being in the moment. Instead of rushing through meal thinking about what you need to do next, when you eat, just eat. This kind of mindfulness, will lead to a less stressful life, and to long-term happiness.

Rebel against fast food and fast life. Our modern day hectic, fast-paced, stressful lifestyle leads to eating salty, fatty and sugar-laced fast foods, and to eating them quickly. This lifestyle dehumanizes us, makes us unhealthy, stresses us out and robs us of the pleasure of taking the time to enjoy life, to enjoy each other, to be human. We can rebel against that entire lifestyle and philosophy with the small act of eating slower. And we can teach our children the deep intelligence of eating slowly by slowing down at the dinner table.

Suggested practice: For the next two weeks, when you eat your evening meal, put your fork or spoon down between bites. If you have children, make a game out of it.

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Creston’s ZenWords Zen Centre. For more information, she can be reached at 250-428-6500.