Thursday, July 15, 2010

Two Helpful Tips When Eating Your Food

Just this past week I learned two very helpful tips from my mother for when eating my food at the dinner table. The first is the French tradition of "partage" and the second is how important it is to chew your food properly (yes I know you think I would have learned this long ago as a child). Learning (or relearning) both these habits will significantly help you lose weight whilst having a healthy, delicious meal.

Partage is the French word for division, or the act of sharing. It is something that couples  do when they eat their meals together as in sharing one plate or a meal. This is a common tradition in France and the great benefit that arises from partage is eating reasonable portions and satisfying your taste buds so you don't feel deprived of food which leads to weight control. 

Not so much in New York City but I find when I travel around the rest of the United States that the meal portions served to me are just plain ridiculously large. It has been noted that in the last few decades since the Fifties the average plate size has gotten bigger and with that so have our portion sizes as I know they could feed whole families in Third World countries. I myself actually lose my appetite when I see a large plate of food coming to me as I know I will not be able to finish it (accept if it is pizza then my stomach seems to open up a few compartments).

When I discussed with my mother the concept of partage she confessed that she and her husband often share their meals when they go out to dine (I believe they have to pay a shared plate surcharge). Besides saving money (something he is happy about) it helps keep their weight under control (something she is happy about) as many of their friends and colleagues seem to be overweight which is a little ironic as they live in sunny Southern California where everyone seems to think that all Southern Californians are fit.

So now when I order my food out I immediately make up my mind that half of it will go into a doggie bag for lunch or dinner the next day. At home I consciously serve myself a small portion and now I have relearned to consciously go about properly chewing my food, my second tip.

I know everyone has been told from childhood to properly chew your food. There are even some guidelines as to how many times you should chew your food (it is recommended between 25 to 50 times for each bite!). Years of working and having my meals by a computer have taught me to scarf down my meals in record time. I am now relearning that chewing is the first step in the science of breaking down your food and the digestive process. Powerful enzymes in your saliva go to work breaking down the food as soon as it enters your mouth. The more you chew, the more saliva you will produce, the better the food will break down and be digested. If you can still determine what kind of food is in your mouth by texture alone (not taste), you haven't chewed it enough. So if you are having a sandwich and you can still tell the lettuce from the bread or meat, it means you have not chewed your food enough as it should almost be a puree in your mouth.

You should even chew thick soups and yogurts (not as much but they still need saliva to be digested). Enzymes are more effective with smaller pieces of food. Digestion is a complex process that extracts the nutrients and other useful materials from the food you eat, while discarding with the rest of it. Chewing your food properly helps your body get more out of the food you eat.

So a few tips for helping make sure that you have the right environment set up for chewing your food properly are:
  • Drink plenty of water to keep saliva levels up.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption during eating as it tends to dry up the mouth.
  • Set aside an ample amount of time to eat and a peaceful environment, try to avoid stressful environments while eating.
  • Avoid eating whilst working, driving or being on the go (another reason why Europeans are thinner than Americans, they respect their meal times).
  • Cut your food into half inch pieces (especially if meat or fish).
  • Chew, chew, chew. Enough so that you know you have created enough saliva to break down the food in your mouth and it is all the same texture.
My mother met a holistic nutritionist recently who drove the point of how important chewing is for our health, digestion and weight control. She decided to experiment with really consciously chewing her food till the saliva broke it all down and in just four days she was amazed with her results. She has lost two pounds, her portions are much smaller now as it takes her much longer to finish her meals, her hunger disappears much more quickly now, her cravings for sweets and coffee have disappeared and her digestion has improved so much she goes to the bathroom after every meal (what doctors say we should normally be doing). She also feels much more respectful of the food she is eating as she feels she doesn't take it for granted.

After a week of heavy socializing I am anxious to start consciously eating my food and I hope to share in my mother's results of better digestion and weight control. Please let me know your results should you decided to take partage and properly chew your food. Such an easy method to be healthy and lose weight which is what this blog is all about.



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