Ounce of Prevention: How to eat properly
A MAJOR truth I have constantly reminded readers of is: you are what you eat. But that's not all. You are also how you eat. Yes, the way you eat your food is also extremely important. Here are some useful tips on how to eat.
Eat primarily for nutrition
Learn to listen to the signals your body sends. A very simple rule is: Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied. Use food to feed your body, not just to satisfy your emotions.
From the time we were infants, we associated food with safety, security and love. The breast, or the bottle, was used to comfort us whenever we were distressed, physically or emotionally.
Offering something to eat has been a common technique used by women to silence children and men.
As adults, we still try to satisfy our need for love, or to relieve our stress, depression and anxiety with food.
Start listening to your body. Many people eat out of habit or for pleasure, not because their body needs food. This encourages overeating.
Be present while eating and try to focus fully on the process of having your meal. Many of us have grown accustomed to eating while watching television, conducting business, using the phone or reading newspapers. This robs you of your awareness of what you are doing, so you will often unconsciously overeat because you have missed the satisfaction of eating and the signals when your body has had enough food.
- Eat in a relaxed environment with minimal distraction. Before you begin eating, take a few deep breaths, relax your body and give thanks for the gift of the meal provided for your body.
- Chew your food until it is liquid, or almost liquid, in your mouth before swallowing. Digestion begins in the mouth with the action of enzymes in your saliva on the food. 'Cutting and swallowing' impairs digestion. Become aware of the flavour, texture and sensations you experience from the food in your mouth. A useful exercise is to sometimes count how many times you chew a mouthful before you swallow.
- Do not put the next bite of food into your mouth until you have swallowed the previous one. Try setting down your utensils and relaxing between mouthfuls, instead of being busy piling food on to your fork or spoon. Take time to fully enjoy each bite.
When you eat is very important. Do not put the next meal into your stomach until you have digested the previous one. This period - at least three hours for most people- is called gastric-emptying time. However, this can vary greatly depending on digestive health and meal contents.
I, and many of my patients, have found the combination of green tea and a meal-replacement protein shake, with or without fresh fruit, an excellent choice for breakfast. At mid-day, when digestive power is greatest, have your heaviest meal. Your body secretes more stomach acid, bile and digestive enzymes at that time.
Earlier in our history, most people ate their main meal in the middle of the day and had a lighter meal in the evening. This practice can improve digestion and enhance sleep.
Acid reflux disease, labelled GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) by doctors, has been greatly encouraged by late-night eating. Do not eat and lounge or lie down immediately after the meal. The time it takes for your stomach to empty after eating is called the gastric-emptying time. For most people, this period is more than three hours, but can vary according to the functioning of your stomach and the type of food consumed. Some light physical activity, such as going for a walk after your evening meal, also aids digestion. Allow at least two hours after your last meal before going to bed.
Before a heavy meal, you can boost your digestive function with this simple blend: Mix equal parts of lemon or lime juice with water and honey (a pinch of black pepper is optional). Drink two ounces of this mixture before your meal. Useful digestive aids after your meal include an aloe vera drink (herbal aloe), herbal green tea, ginger and mint teas. More serious digestive problems may benefit from taking probiotics and digestive enzymes.
Remember: How you eat is as important as what you eat!
• You may email Dr Vendryes at email@example.com or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER106FM on Fridays at 8:15 p.m. Details of his books and articles are available on his website www.tonyvendryes.com.