“Chew. The Stomach does not have teeth. “ Yogi Bhajan.
At the end of dinner with my son, as I was lecturing him on why we don’t spit our food back out on our plates just because we don’t like it (Gross, right?!) I found myself hurriedly and angrily shoveling the rest of my beautiful organic, vegan Ayurvedic meal into my mouth. And the light came on.
Calm down Janet…and chew. It is a great challenge. Perhaps as challenging as asking a smoker to give up cigs. But for years (and years!) of knowing I was doing myself harm and still I cannot eat slowly and calmly. I run laps around my dining companions. Which means I eat twice as much. I’m ravenous. I literally shovel the food into my face. What am I so hungry for? Why do I need to feel so full? and why does it need to happen so quickly? I eat impeccably well and I am not overweight, so on one level I thought I could get away with it. However, you can stuff the best food in the world in your face and be poisoning yourself, or you can delicately and lovingly chew french-fries and be doing your body good. I have heard it all before, but I was not listening. In fact, for me, rapid and ravenous eating is such a habit that I am deeply uncomfortable, even nervous to eat slowly. For me, eating like a bear is one of the greatest comforts in this life. But I’m not willing to accept the consequences any more. That’s it. I quit. I give up my gluttonous ways and I am now starting on my 40 days quest to quit the bad habit.
Amylase is the first digestive enzyme that starts to break down your food right their in your mouth from your lovely saliva glands (It is also made in your pancreas but for a different function). It is an enzyme to break down starches and convert them into sugars. You need this to happen as you do not want to exhaust your poor stomach, or to have undigested starches floating around in your blood stream. This process starts with chewing. Just chewing… and salivating. Which means eating food that makes your mouth water!
I associate slow eating with a lack of appetite, with nervousness. My concept of time has been such that there isn’t enough of it to take time to chew through a meal. Perhaps there was a struggle to get the good food at a table of 4 growing girls? In any case they are all excuses now, and my body doesn’t care. What my body knows is that I am panicking to get food in and not chewing. I am eating from the reptilian brain- get it while you can because life is an emergency state and food could disappear at any minute…. stress, stress, stress. Obviously I don’t believe that if I don’t eat two plates of my cauliflower curry I will starve because who can guarantee the next meal. However, If I am eating in that manner, then my Sympathetic Nervous System is picking up all those cues and will send out the corresponding hormones… the ones that will eventually make us fat and sick.
So I wrote myself a letter on a place mat. Here it goes;
Dear Sweet Janet,
You do not have to rush after life or need to stuff life into you; life it with you, and you can enjoy, respect and be present in every moment.
Chew times a bit every bite for 40 days.
Cook your food slowly.
Allow yourself to digest and assimilate.
Be present and patient Janet….
As I am never one for brevity, it goes on and on. But that is the basic point. and I have put it down on the table, that at least for the next few days I will be reminded that I am creating a new habit for life. And in order to create a habit we must continue for at least 40 days with constant consciousness of this habit.
I would be very interested to know how other people feel about chewing their food… is it a struggle for anyone else… and have they mastered it? What effect do you feel it has on your health?
Chew and love You.