Eating can be a fight between what you crave and what you know is going to nourish you. And all too often they're not the same foods. Choosing our meals can feel frustrating, exhausting, and full of pitfalls. That can leave you feeling constantly on edge, and that stress can fuel your emotional eating and cause weight-gain. How can you step out of this cycle and start to eat easier? By slowing down.
Why slow down?
The world we live in today is one of speed. We all hustle to achieve, produce, and be proactive. Your biggest stressor might be the fear of having an "unproductive" day, so activities like self-care, meditation, and slowing down seem like the last thing you'd ever want to do.
But they're more important that you can imagine. Slowing down with food has the power to change the way you eat and make every food experience not only easier but more enjoyable.
When you take dedicated time to slow down and eat, pleasure and satisfaction have a chance to register. Your brain will have the time to recognize that you've eaten. This means you'll feel more satisfied with your food, be able to gauge your hunger signals better, and enjoy what you're eating.
On the flip side, I've had many clients tell me that once they started slowing down, they were able to identify and stop eating foods they assumed they were enjoying and were eating automatically, like certain desserts. When they slowed down and tasted the food, they hated it and stopped after just one mouthful.
Slowing down makes eating easier.
What does slowing down with food look like?
If you've spent your whole life as a fast eater, grown up in a family of speed-eaters, and have no idea what a slower relationship with food looks like, here are some thoughts:
- Don't brag about being so busy you don't even have time to eat. This isn’t a good thing or a mark of honor; it’s a deep disservice to yourself and your well-being. By bragging about it, you're promoting it to others and making poor self-care a goal for yourself. How would you feel if your 5-year-old child came home from school and proudly told you they'd been working so hard they hadn't eaten lunch for the past three days? You'd be worried and upset, and the same applies to you as an adult.
- Don't live from coffee to coffee. When you slow down you get more nutrition from your food, relax more, and can make better decisions about where to put your energy. When you slow down and take the time to fuel yourself with a good meal, you can stop relying on coffee to get you through. Which is great, because overloading with coffee promotes a release of cortisol (the stress hormone), which causes cravings and weight gain.
- Don't eat at your computer, in your car, or in bed. When you slow down, you sit in a "food space" (like a table, bench, break room, park) and you focus on your food. You don't also finish off that spreadsheet or add items to your to-do list. You eat, eat properly, then move on with your day.
How do you slow down?
Breathing is your secret weapon.
When you focus on your breath you automatically slow down and release stress. Before every meal (and snack), check in with your mind and body. Are you feeling stress or tension anywhere? Regardless of the answer, take 10 long, slow, deep breaths before you take your first bite, and any time you feel tension during your meal.
Breathing will help you slow down and enjoy your food more, but even so, you might find yourself finishing your dinner in under five minutes. Can you gift yourself with more than that? I like to use my "playlist technique" to help me make sure I'm taking time for myself and my food.
Use music to pace you.
All you do is: Make a playlist of soothing music you like to hear while eating and try to make your meal last at least a certain number of songs. Over time, add a song and make meal times longer. This is especially useful when eating alone.
You can make meal times progressively longer by using the songs as a cue, which is a nice way to do it—timing a meal or having a stopwatch just doesn't seem conducive to relaxation!
Plan your meals.
You can have the best slow-down intentions in the world, but if you're spending your day trying to juggle decisions about work, kids, deadlines, which shoes to wear today, and what to eat, you're exhausting your willpower and leaving yourself less time to slow down. This is where meal planning comes in.
Even if you're just pre-planning your lunches for the week, you'll love the safety net of knowing you've got yourself covered and that a stressful food decision isn't looming over you. This means less stress, more time to slow down, and a chance to eat easier.
Slowing down with food takes practice, but once you've experienced the fulfillment and pleasure of a day spent eating easily, you'll never want to go back.