Why Not Enjoying Your Food Can Make You Fat!
Do you understand the difference between enjoying food and abusing food?
Well, pop quiz: Do you think it’s the countries that rate their enjoyment of food as higher or lower that have the most people with weight issues?
Because there have been a number of really interesting studies that have come out recently which compare certain cultures or countries against each other and they have found that people in cultures that enjoy their food more typically have lower body weights and body mass index scores, and less issues with obesity.
Now, when you first hear that you might think, “Well, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Wouldn’t the people in places where food is rated as more enjoyable have the weight problems?”
No. The fact is that in North America we have a very skewed idea about what food enjoyment is whereas in other places of the world, they truly understand it and practice it.
So what is food enjoyment?
In countries like France, food is a huge part of the culture and the amount of enjoyment food brings to life is rated as very high. At the same time, this population has vastly lower weight and obesity issues than North America. When they talk about enjoying food, they’re talking about:
- Slow eating,
- Savoring the experience of food, enjoying every single bite,
- Respecting the food and asking yourself questions like: “How does this food taste? Does it taste different than the same sort of food that I had last time? And what are the subtle differences? How does this food make me feel?”
- Trying various different foods but in very little portions,
- Eating without distractions in very calm, controlled environments where the setting of where you eat and with whom is very important,
- Eating is the event or activity they’re putting their focus into, so they can get the most joy out of it.
So, they don’t eat in front of the computer. They don’t eat in front of the TV. They don’t eat while they’re driving to work.
In North America, by contrast, we have a vastly different relationship with food. Food is something that we abuse and we think abuse is enjoyment.
For instance, you probably don’t enjoy your favourite food by trying a very little bit of it, chewing slowly and concentrating on the taste and what your palate is telling you—really experiencing the food. If you’re in North American, enjoyment probably means eating more of what you really love. So, something like “Oh, ice cream is my favourite food, so I eat a huge helping of ice cream.” Or, “Chocolate is my favourite food so I enjoy it by eating lots of chocolate.”
Also in North American we tend to eat food quickly, we eat food when we’re stressed, we eat food on the go, we eat in front of the TV. We’re just kind of mindlessly eating food and that leads to a relationship of abuse.
When eating food becomes this thing that you’re doing non-stop, while you’re paying attention to something else, you’re crossing the line from enjoyment into abuse. You’re losing respect for food and really diminishing the relationship that can be special between you and your culinary adventures.
How can you move from food abuse to food enjoyment?
A big thing you can do in order to change your dietary habits and be a healthier, fitter, happier person is to take more joy in the foods you eat. That means taking your time when eating food. Even if it’s just for the first couple of minutes of each meal, take time to enjoy every single bite. Slow it down. Ask yourself questions:
- What do I taste in this food?
- What do I like about this food?
- What do I not like about this food?
- What could I cook with differently next time to make this taste better?
- What sort of spices and things could I add to make the taste even more interesting for my palate?
It may sound silly to you but it really will make a big difference.
…Because it’s not just about having a greater respect for food and therefore abusing it less. Chewing more slowly and taking your time is going to lead to better digestion. It’s going to lead to less gut problems. It’s also going to lead to less overeating because your brain is going to let you know well ahead of time that you’ve had enough food when you’re full. You’ll be facilitating a better connection between your brain and your stomach.
When we’re just hammering food into our mouths while we’re on the go, stressed, or watching TV, we’re not paying attention to what we’re eating at all. We’re just putting in food, putting in food, putting in food. Well, that’s the biggest reason why we get into overeating. It’s because we’re completely disconnected from the food we eat. So when we’re telling you to enjoy your food more, we don’t mean you should eat more of what you love. Enjoying your food is about building that really positive food relationship, savoring every single bite, being in the moment with your food and not having other distractions.
So, next time you eat some food, just slow it down. It doesn’t even have to be for the full meal. Just start in the first two minutes, chew more slowly, ask yourselves questions about the food, really enjoy every single bite and take your time. If you do this I guarantee that over time your relationship with food will improve and so will your body and your health.
Now tell me in the comments below, what’s your favorite food?