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Leftfield 101: Nutrition - Slow down
By: Leftfield Training

“Chew your drink and drink your food”

- Mahatma Gandhi

An armchair shrink would attribute it to having four other siblings. I think it’s more to do with a few years working in kitchens - rushed, standing up, always multi-tasking. Whatever the reason the fact remains, despite it’s simplicity, this of all nutritional principles, remains my stumbling block.

My name is Oliver.

And I eat like a labrador.

In our fast-paced, distracted, society, we eat fast. Too fast. Inevitably this becomes habitual and soon enough, even in the absence of any deadline, we are still throwing it down.

But good things come to those who wait.

One of the most important, specifically with regards to weight management is that eating slowly gives your body time to recognise when you are full.

This signal of sateity doesn't kick in until approximately twenty minutes from the start of a meal. Not particularly helpful if you actually passed the high tide mark five minutes earlier and are still cramming it. Or if you've been and gone in half that time. Easily.

How many extra calories are you consuming before the body registers that it is full? What effect is this having on your waistline?

The answer to both - LOTS.

A growing number of studies (if interested in the specifics check references below) confirm that just by eating slower, you’ll consume fewer calories — in fact, enough to lose almost 10kg a year without doing anything else different, or eating anything different.

10kg simply by taking your time!

It gets weirder. When you eat quickly, you are hungrier again sooner than if you had only taken your time to eat the same amount. So not only does eating quickly lead to eating more at the time, you are less satisfied and thus likely to eat more later on.

Less food, more satisfaction.

Eating slowly also improves our digestion.

Swallowing food before it is sufficiently chewed can cause a cascade of issues further along the digestive chain, and given that it all starts in the mouth - this of course means the entire system.

In wolfing our food down we are hurrying along digestive processes that are not designed to be rushed, essentially forcing our GI tract to process stuff that it's not equipped to handle, and well before its ready.

This can cause flatulence, bloating, constipation, stomach ache, cramps and even diarrhoea.

But inadequately digested food also means that we are not absorbing all the nutrients available to us. Even if we are eating good quality food - if we eat at speed a lot of the nutrients we should be getting will pass straight through.

Eating slowly (and mindfully) is an idea celebrated in many other parts of the world.

Those of the world's great cuisines all linger at the table. The French long lunch, the Spanish late dinner. But as we see from Gandhi, this philosophy pervades Eastern culture also.

As with so many many modern day food-faults, it seems that here we follow suit with the Americans. Strange when you consider Australians are renowned for their laid-back, relaxed attitude to life - although a culinary tradition of meat and three veg might explain it.

Learning to eat mindfully, is the ultimate goal of the Nutrition 101 program. If we pay attention to the signals we are given, our body will tell us what to eat, how much, and when. In tune.

An awareness of our bodies and a (re)learning of body signals is the foundation for this. Becoming sensitive to our natural hunger and fullness cues. But to hear them, first we have to listen.

Err, so what are we doing here then - mindfully, or slowly?

Well, according to the old dude sitting over there under the waterfall....

To eat mindfully, one must eat slowly. To eat slowly, one must eat mindfully.

Riiiiiight. Well I’m not too keen on copping a wooden staff to the back of the head, so you can go and ask him:

How exactly are we s'pose to go about this then?

- Make an appointment for your meals. Schedule at least 20-30mins and preferably longer. This takes care of the rush factor. Commit to sitting there for the entire time whatever happens - further incentive to slow down and eat instead of just sitting there feeling stupid for the next 30minutes.

- Only eat at the table. Minimise mindless munching by eating only when sitting down and able to give the food your full attention.

- Eat without distractions. Stop multi-tasking when eating (or anything else) Pay attention to both your food and your body.

- Focus on each mouthful. Think about the smell, flavour, texture and the sound of the food in your mouth.

- Set a minimum chew limit. 30 chews, not 3.

- If you have to, give yourself a handicap - eat with chopsticks or your other hand. I'm using a strait-jacket.

- Be aware - when you catch yourself rushing, put your cutlery down and refocus. This is a skill to be learned and it will take time to develop.

- Eat with someone chatty, put your cutlery down when talking.

- Eat high-fibre foods like fruits and vegetables that take longer to chew.

But like all new habits we need to set realistic expectations early on. So while perhaps not slowly, we can certainly start with slower.


For the next 14 days, add 1 minute per day to a 10 minute minimum for one of your daily meals.

Choose one meal each day and commit to focusing on mindful eating at that time.

ie. one meal tomorrow will be 11 minutes. The next day 12 minutes, the day after 13 minutes etc.

Set your phone now to remind you at whichever meal tomorrow you think will be most appropriate.

Divide the plate into quarters and concentrate on making each last for the required time.

We all lead busy lives. But to be busy is not a reason, not an excuse to let our lives fly by. Certainly not a reason to stack up health issues for us to deal with at a later date.

In learning to eat slowly we not only allow our bodies to work as designed giving us control over our weight and better health overall, it gives us reason to step into the slipstream for a while. It can't be done out there in the breeze.

Because without a reason, would we ever?

It will all still be there when you have finished, exactly where you left it.

Is your health and quality of life reason enough?

Call Leftfield Training now, and take the first step to getting IN SHAPE OUTDOORS.


Further reading:


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Added: 22-04-2014