What is food?
Most of us think of food as fuel (and some pleasure of course), so we often compare our bodies to machines or combustion engines. But let me just tell you, that’s not the case.
When you fill your car’s tank you know more or less how far you can go, correct? However if you eat 2 small cookies for breakfast everyday (200 calories) and your friend eats 2 eggs with some vegetables (200 calories) and you are both trying to lose weight, look and feel great, who do you think will go further in achieving your goals?
Food is a lot more than gasoline and your body is way more than a simple machine. Every food decision we make delivers different messages: make this protein, release or not that hormone, activate immune cells and so forth. Food is information! But is that it?
How we digest, absorb and use food depends on so many factors that I would have to write a book to fully explain those functions...so to keep it somewhat simple, our bodies are very dynamic, complex, self organizing, and microbial (yes, our gut bacteria does much of our digestion) and will do what’s needed tokeep us alive. So, 200 calories from 2 cookies is NOT the same as 200 calories from 2 eggs with veggies.
Current research states that even our thoughts, feelings, environment, and current mood can affect nutrient processing in our bodies. For example, when was the last time you thought about where your apple camefrom, who picked it, or how far it travelled to get to you? Usually we are just swallowing the food while thinking about that important meeting coming up or how are we getting our kids to soccer, baseball, and gymnastics practice this week.
So, food is not only information, but food can tell a story! Thinking about where your food came from, being mindful that your chicken is a bird, and didn’t just come from those rectangular packages at the grocery store, might help you practice more mindful eating and hopefully affect you positively in your daily food choices.
Another important aspect of mindful eating has to do with how fast we eat. The slower we eat and the more we chew, the more our salivary enzymes can break down our food and start the digestion process. Plus, eating slower will send that satiety message to our brain sooner, which will keep us from overeating. Mindful eating is a powerful tool and can affect our food choices, help us maintain our values, priorities and goals aligned with our nutrition.
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