In September, I started 3 years of training to become a Nutritional Therapist. We’ve already started learning about the finer detail of the digestive system. One of the things I found fascinating is the process of digestion, and how our habits can have a really big impact.
For example, the first stage of digestion begins before we even put anything in our mouths! We often say that the thought or smell of a particular food makes our mouth water, and it’s literally true. The anticipation of eating increases the production of saliva, a core component in digestion, as well as prompting our stomachs to produce the gastric juices vital to breaking down the food we eat. Once we put food into our mouths, chewing is also vital to good digestion – not only does it give the food the chance to mix with saliva, it also mechanically breaks it down into smaller pieces. This increases the surface area and gives all those lovely enzymes more room to work.
But think about our lifestyles today – often we’re eating on the run (literally walking down the street) or mindlessly at our desks or in front of the TV. I invest quite a lot of time in planning, preparing and cooking nice food, then pretty much inhale it without tasting it half the time. Which is frankly bonkers. My Mum’s side of the family describe themselves as “good trencher folk”, i.e. there is complete silence for 5 minutes after a meal is served whilst the “who can finish the quickest” competition takes place and then the conversation can begin, probably amid much burping thanks to the amount of air we’ve all ingested during our frantic shovelling.
My October goal is going to be to eat more mindfully and spend more time chewing. I’m not going to adopt the chewing 100 times habit of “the Great Masticator”, Horace Fletcher (although I love his catchphrase: “Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate”), but I will aim to chew my food for thoroughly and just down my cutlery between mouthfuls to slow myself down. This should also help the feedback loops that tell me that I’m full the time they need to work, so I won’t be hunting for seconds 5 mins after firsts!