"What to eat" is important, but...
For all the competing nutrition philosophies out there— macros, paleo, vegetarian, etc. — it’s normal to wonder how to get the right amount of food, and from the right places.
Do I eat meat? How much? What about bread? Will gluten kill me? If I count my calories, I’ll lose weight, right?
Those are all valid questions, but they’re also an example of misplaced precision. They’re out of order, and can’t be answered correctly for each individual until we get some baselines established.
The baselines I’m talking about are cornerstone nutrition habits that get results for people regardless of their nutritional intake.
The first one is simple, but not easy:
Think about how you eat first.
Eat your food slowly. Chew it completely. Take a second to breathe before your next bite.
That’s it. And its effects are far-reaching.
The benefits of eating slowly cascade throughout the digestive process. On a macro level, it means that we’ll be eating less food overall. The process of feeling “full” after a meal is actually more of a time-delay than a volume measurement. Your body will start feeling full about 20 minutes after you start eating, because that’s the delay between when you start eating and when the brain can send out signals to let you know you’re good, you’ve had enough.
For a long time, my goal was to gain weight and put on muscle. This meant getting more food in the body than it needed just to maintain its current state (which is all the body ever wants to do, by the way). I was racing the clock to get as many calories in as I could before the brain hit the buzzer.
This is what a lot of people do without realizing it. There are a lot of calories that sneak by because we just can’t feel full yet. For those of you trying to lose weight, you need to give it time.
This also improves your satisfaction with meals, which is different from fullness. Fullness is utility, whereas satisfaction is enjoyment. It’s what minimalism gurus are always talking about: live in the moment. Or, as I like to say, chew in the moment.
Digestion improves with a slower pace as well. One example of this is with carbohydrates, which get broken down via a substance called salivary amylase during mastication. Plus, your gut and stomach take time to “warm up” and get ready to process your food by producing enzymes and acid that breaks it down. Don’t surprise your GI tract by shotgunning your meals.
Simply put: the more you chew, the easier it is to digest your food.
So here are the action steps:
- Chew your food 20x per mouthful. Once this is habitual, upgrade to 30x.
- Set your utensils down between bites.
All of this leads to a healthier relationship with food. This sounds like a buzzphrase, and it kind of is, but it goes far beyond just weight loss. Slowing down leads to smaller portions, better digested, that are usually made up of better food. Have you ever tried to chew crappy processed food like a hot dog 30 times? Not so good. Real food tends to keep its appeal.
This is just one of the habits that can lead to better body composition results like losing fat and building muscle without even looking at your food choices. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter what you eat (not even close), but there are things that we need to get in line before applying precise methods. What’s the point in counting macros if you’re missing out on 10-20% of your nutrition because you don’t chew your food? What’s the point of measuring intake of vitamins to the IU if we don’t know what’s getting absorbed?
This week, try the two steps listed above and see if you up your meal satisfaction. Comment if you’ve tried this before, and happy chewing.
P.S. If you want more guidance with your weight loss or nutrition journey, we offer Nutrition Coaching that can turn you into the healthiest person you know.