Putting attention to this single action can help you lose weight, add to your energy stores and even eliminate bloating, gas and abdominal pain.
With a word like ‘masticate’, it’s difficult for the mind not to wander to similarly sounding kinky words. But there’s nothing kinky about what I’m advocating for you and your health. Masticate simply means chewing and as unsexy as chewing sounds, I promise you that if you follow my prescription and create an awareness around this all important activity, which you do at least three times during a day [if not more!], then you’ll be on your way not only to a slimmer bod, but you’ll increase your energy reserves multi-fold…
Did you know that the process of digestion requires more energy of your body than anything else it does to maintain itself?
It’s true. The process that a meal has to undergo from the top end to the other end requires a symphony of actions, mechanical, physiological, chemical, even cerebral. This output of energy is taxing on the body and draws on your energy reserves. And when you know that you can actually relieve some of that pressure, thereby protecting those energy reserves for other, more desired activities, why wouldn’t you want to do the assist? The process is simple. Think. And chew. In that order.
Let me explain.
The gut-brain connection isn’t just a fad concept. It’s a fact. Besides seeing and smelling food, the simple act of thinking about your food begins the process of triggering the myriad juices and enzymes to kick in and get ready for what’s about to come down the pipe.
Most of us don’t give our meals a second thought.
We make a meal [or order it] and eat it. The process of digestion actually begins once your brain begins thinking about it [as well as seeing, smelling & hearing]. Consider that the extra time you spend contemplating the food that you are about to feed and nourish your body means that you can get those enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCL), gastric and pancreatic secretions building earlier. This is no small thing. That extra time actually jumpstarts the physiological powers of your digestive system.
So, whether you want to take a few moments to appreciate the meal in front of you, give gratitude to the cook, or in some other way, mark the moment, the extra time you spend being mindful means you’re doing your body a favor by revving up your digestive system for its upcoming task.
This mindfulness component grounds you in the moment. It can be significant in not only forcing you to focus on what’s in front of you (versus the hundreds of other tasks yet to be accomplished), but it also sets the physiological & chemical stage in your body’s mission to break the food down & deliver it to your cells. Eating in a mindless, rushed fashion, which we so typically often do, can wreak havoc on our digestive system. In fact, when you eat a meal and you’re under chronic stress, less acids are being produced and food hangs around longer in your system. This is your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response being activated. If your brain thinks it needs to fight off a bear, that’s where your resources go and your digestive system shuts down.
Instead, give thoughtful consideration to the activity of eating and make it a ritual that you can easily add into your routine. Whether you’re adding a religious, spiritual or just meditative contemplation, you are doing your mind and body a Huge favor. After all, without the food in front of you, how would you survive?
Once the requisite juices are activated, it’s time to begin that all important mission of the mechanical process of chewing your food. It’s so simple, really, but again, most of us don’t give this event much attention, unless we encounter an unexpected sensation that doesn’t fit, e.g. an unexpected pit, piece of shell or sliver of bone.
Once the brain has triggered the salivary glands to be activated, that saliva is crucial at spreading its enzymatic goodness in and around that bite of food. The longer that bite of food stays in the mouth, being broken down and liquified [aka a bolus], the more surface area you’re creating so that those enzymes and enzyme attack can access the bolus more easily. This eases digestion on the rest of your body. So, when we do our extra part by chewing our food longer, that means there’s more energy that can be used elsewhere. But that’s not the only benefit we derive from giving our food extra love-chew attention.
Interested in losing weight? It takes about 20 to 30 minutes for our brain to get the message that we’re full. This important time factor means that if we slow down and spend more time chewing our food, we will reach satiety on considerably less food. Do I hear cheers in the crowd? The very simple attentive act of chewing, which you control, can support you in your weight loss goals. Fun fact: ‘People who are “naturally thin” have been shown to continually project themselves 20 to 30 minutes in the future to detect how their stomachs will feel and this presumably helps them more accurately detect their level of satiety and only eat ’til 80% full.
Extra chewing means the body is releasing more enzymes and HCL. The more circulating enzymes means food is more readily broken down, delivered to the cells. This helps the body feel full and satiated. The energy from the food is getting where it needs to go. This is the crux of happy mitochondria. Our cells getting what they need. When the body gets what it needs, it lets you know.
The benefits of chewing longer are great. Got a slow digestive system? Motility an issue? More chewing, generates more saliva, which can help with that all important spontaneous movement that moves food through the digestive system. Experiencing bloating, gas or abdominal pain? Spend more time chewing your food as that is known to eliminate these issues.
How many extra chews does it take to accomplish all I’m recommending here?
There’s no magic number. It depends on the content of your meal. But really, it all comes down to bringing awareness to this all important activity to the forefront of your brain and begin the process of slowing down, getting mindful about the eating experience and chewing longer than you usually do. This awareness alone will help support you in your quest for a healthier bod.
If you’re morning smoothie needs a bump in chomping, check out my favorite – Karen’s Krunch Smoothie. It’s simple, contains my favorite add-ons and will force you to slow down for this all important activity.
Let me know how your practice of chewing mindfully works for you. What steps will you take to boost your pre-eating pondering along with extra munching to support your body and its aim for digestive bliss?