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The importance of mindful eating in a fast world


There are a lot of reasons we might scarf down our food - tight deadlines, short lunch breaks at work, maybe even a sense that if we could just eat a little faster, we'll somehow be more productive. For those who haven't had access to food at home, there may be a feeling of urgency at the table, and for some, eating quickly while distracted by a screen might just be a habit these days.

LILIAN CHEUNG: People are not eating, really, sitting down to eat a meal. Very often, we found ourselves eating something and doing something else.

MARIELLE SEGARRA, BYLINE: Lilian Cheung is a lecturer on nutrition and the director of mindfulness research and practice at Harvard University. Marielle Segarra, the host of NPR's Life Kit, talked to Cheung and shares some of the techniques you can use to slow down and notice your food.

SEGARRA: Lilian Cheung says the rule of thumb from nutritionists is to spend at least 20 minutes eating every meal.

CHEUNG: Because it takes about that time for your body to get the signal to the brain that you are full.

SEGARRA: If you're used to eating fast, that'll probably feel like a glacial pace, so here are some things that can help you slow down. First, set aside time to eat and only eat.

CHEUNG: Make sure your cellphone is not with you or is face down, and you're not going to be responding to any messages that come through.

SEGARRA: Next, engage your senses. Ask yourself, how does this recipe taste? Is it salty, sweet? Or look at the bell pepper in the dish. Notice its bright yellow color. Another thing you can do is take smaller portions to the table. Maybe you're longing for potato chips. So take a handful, put them in a dish and put the bag away. Then sit down, and while you're eating them, notice their saltiness and their crispness.

CHEUNG: And thank the universe for the right climate to be able to have that potato and the manpower that has been engaged in making it available not only at the factory but also transportation to get the chips to the supermarket, etc.

SEGARRA: You can also say affirmations to yourself, like I'm not in a rush, or I enjoy my food. Oh, and don't forget to chew.

CHEUNG: We don't chew enough, and we just swallow the food. It's harder on our digestion that way. So chewing - our teeth are opposed to help us to break up the food so that it's easier for absorption.

SEGARRA: Sometimes we really don't have a lot of time to eat a meal. I remember when I worked at a clothing store, I only got 15 minutes to eat.

CHEUNG: In that case, I would split up the meal. Eat at a good pace that you find comfortable. Save it for later for a snack.

SEGARRA: And if you have to sit and eat at a desk, she says, don't look at your email, and set expectations with your coworkers. Put an away message on Slack. Or if somebody comes up to you, you could just be like, hey, eating - I'll get back to you.

CHEUNG: That's right. And you just tell them, I have to nourish my mind and my body with this food.

SEGARRA: It is a very wholesome thing to say, and no one will dare question you. For NPR News, I'm Marielle Segarra.


DETROW: For more Life Kit, check out npr.org/lifekit.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Marielle Segarra
Marielle Segarra is a reporter and the host of NPR's Life Kit, the award-winning podcast and radio show that shares trustworthy, nonjudgmental tips that help listeners navigate their lives.