Eating slowly is one of the “mother”habits in Precision Nutrition coaching. It is also one of the habits that most clients struggle with. It is the habit I personally struggle with.
I like doing things quickly, you see. Walking fast, running fast, driving fast. Everything fast. Please, please please, do NOT walk ever so slowly in front of me in a busy hallway. PLEASE do not drive 50 in a 60 zone. Please hurry up with bagging those groceries, I haven’t got all day.
You get the idea. Your very typical “hurry up, already” type A. Speed devil. I could be a New Yorker. Except… shudder. This is NOT a tendency that is serving me well. And, so this is the tendency that I selectively choose to push against. Sometimes.
I still drive fast. (Just no longer fast enough for half dozen speeding tickets in six months).
When I spent one week (just one week!) intentionally focusing on eating slowly – sitting with my plate of food, chewing my food (radical concept, really), and savouring, rather than shovelling, I noticed some curious things.
Here they are:
1. Wraps are hard. Sandwiches are hard. Anything I have to hold with two hands is hard, because it falls a part as soon as you put it down. Not ideal for slow eating.
2. Anything liquidy – like yogurt or a smoothie or soup is hard – the initial instinct is just to slurp it! So I nurse it, and take big breaks between sips.
3. I realized that I have been using a table spoon for salads. You know why? Because you can shovel more food onto it. Yep. So it’s been back to the fork for me.
4. There are a couple of things that I realized that I don’t even like that much. Like tilapia. I haven’t really thought about it before. But after eating it slowly couple of times this week, I just don’t like the taste. And another thing… Tim Hortons coffee. Oh my god, right? For gals outside of Canada, Tim Hortons is a chain of coffeeshops which is pretty much part of Canadian identity. Like hockey. And maple syrup. And no, I don’t like their coffee. It tastes awful. I do apologize to all the Timmy’s fans out there.
5. Sometimes, when I don’t pay attention, I put more food in my mouth, even though there’s still food there! Gross, right?
6. I don’t snack as much. I noticed that sometimes I sort of feel like a snack, but then realize that I will actually have to sit down and eat it slowly, and I think – forget it. And I just wait for the next meal. And sometimes, I do have the snack. Slowly.
7. When it comes to tools, playlist of music works better than a timer. Timer feels a bit contrived, yet with a playlist, I can simply pick three great songs, and aim to finish my meal within that time frame, then up the playlist to four songs, and so on.
8. It is harder to eat slowly later in the day. Fact. (To be honest, I am starting to think that everything is harder later in the day. This blog post is a case in point). One Friday I came home from the gym later than anticipated, and found myself chewing on something straight from the pot, standing over the stove. Awesome. And a conclusion from that – if I let myself get too hungry, it’s harder to eat slowly. I do best when I eat pretty frequently.
9. My food gets cold. I encountered this throughout the week too. And felt a bit frustrated at first. But then… here’s the power of reframing, are you ready? I thought: gee, if this is my biggest problem right now, that my food gets a bit cold, I must be doing pretty well. No?
10. Leftovers. Leftovers are good! That means you are listening to your body, and stopping when satisfied, rather than finishing what’s on the plate, simply because it’s on your plate. I always thought how silly it is that we are driven by what’s on our plate. We have these complex systems that tells us whether we are hungry or not, and instead we use dinnerware to tell us when to stop. Keep’em. I find that anything tastes good thrown together with some scrambled eggs. Or, if you hate leftovers, throw them out. As the saying goes, you either throw it out, or throw it in. Don’t throw it in.
11. I also found myself getting angry with this habit. As I mentioned above, my natural tendency is to move fast. And you can bet that there were at least a couple of times, when I thought to myself, jeez, I really don’t have time for this. But then I realized it wasn’t true. I did have time for this, I just didn’t WANT to have time for this.
12. Most importantly, I found myself reflecting on perfectionism again and again. In a perfect world, I would sit at a table, with candles and music, and eat without distractions, savouring every single bite. Yeah. Right. Instead, I was shooting for consistently mediocre. Maybe I can sit at table, instead of a desk, even if I’m reading a magazine. Maybe I can spend ten minutes eating my meal, instead of five? How can I simply eat a little bit slower than before?
Phew. I was glad when this week was over. Will I continue eating this way – chewing every bite with a playlist in the background? No. I am still a speed devil. BUT, doing this once in a while reminds me what eating slowly IS, so I can aim to simply eat slowER than my fast.