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Lesson from France… savor your food.

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To contribute to the theme of French eating practice’s, I’d like to discuss perhaps one of the French’s key tools in their well portioned meals, slowing down while eating. SLOW DOWN???!!  You shout. I know, this sounds REALLY unreasonable to most of us in today’s society. HOW CAN WE SLOW DOWN???!! WE HAVE SO MUCH TO GET DONE IN A DAY!!!” And your argument is absolutely true. There IS a lot to get done every day. So slowing down will not be an option every single day perhaps. I’ll admit… it took some adjusting to get used to their slow meals in France. The restaurant meals over there are long…longer than in the US. But I have to say, it was REALLY AMAZING to see a culture enjoy their meal time. Not just taking time to enjoy the food and savoring every bite, but also enjoying the company of family and friends through out the meal. We do enjoy our meals here at home of course, but I can’t help but notice that we have less time to enjoy them on average. And that we eat FAST.

One thing the French seems to do well is savoring every bite. What do I mean by savor? The definition of SAVOR means “to enjoy completely”. To use all of your senses to experience how your food tastes and pleases you. This may sound like a complete waste of time to some, but to the French, it is absolutely necessary. This might explain in part why they are so much better at portion control than we are. When you eat slowly and really take the time to pay attention to how you feel while eating, you might notice more accurately when you become full. I’m sure you have experienced an episode of overeating in your life. I know I have. A certain time when you were perhaps STARVING when you were presented with a large amount of food. Naturally you dove into that dish and ate very quickly to reverse that crumby hungry feeling. But if you ate quickly with out a break, you easily can be so distracted that you miss your body’s initial fullness signal. It is only a few minutes later when you realize… OH NO! NOW I AM OVERSTUFFED!! That is never a good feeling. Better than insanely hungry perhaps, but still an uncomfortable feeling. Many of us have never even tried to concisiously eat a meal slowly. I challenge you to. I challenge you to choose one meal this week or snack this week and eat it with the intention of experiencing the food slowly. Listening to your body, which should tell you if your listening closely, when it has had enough. You might be surprised by how much less you eat in a meal when you take the time to notice when you are actually full. If you are able to eat this one meal or snack in solitude that is even better since you will have no distractions. This principle of eating slowly while listening to your body that the French have always done so well parallels closely with the principles of Intuitive Eating, an eating philosophy introduced by Evelyn Tribole MS RD and Elyse Resch MS RDN.  This is very helpful approach for many people with a variety of disordered eating patterns.

Some days this conscious slow eating will not be possible of course. But on days when you think it might be possible, consider taking a couple minutes at least to really SAVOR your food. Use all of your senses to really experience the food. Taste the food in your mouth for a minute before you even begin chewing it. Experience the food’s texture. Then chew it slowly. Pay attention to how the texture changes while you chew it. And of course, the FLAVOR! Really experience all of the flavors. How many are there? How does the flavor change through out chewing? In Evelyn Tribole’s and Elyse Resch’s book Intuitive Eating a revolutionary program that works they write of many cases of nutrition patients who learned to eat slowly and learned so much about themselves. Many learned that certain foods (sometimes unhealthy foods) that they routinely had eaten their whole lives, they did not even like when they actually slowed down and paid attention to what the food tasted like! Many learned to try again other foods which were always deemed as dislikes, and found that when they slowed down to enjoy it, they actually liked some previously disliked foods! It’s truly amazing how different our eating experience can be when we treat eating as a pleasurable experience rather than a thing to cross off on our to do list.

Please make a date with yourself this week to treat yourself to a nice slow meal/ snack that you can fully enjoy! You might be surprised by what you learn 🙂

Have a healthy day!