Client Core Habits: One Meal Per Day Eating Slowly, Mindfully, And In Community
Question: Did you eat one meal today slowly, mindfully, and in community?
How To Know You’ve Done This: Eat a meal with someone slowly, mindfully, and without a screen at the table.
Sometimes something totally abnormal can be so saturated into our environment that we don’t even realize it’s there. Here in LA, life is fast-paced and (traffic) jam-packed. Everybody has somewhere to go and something to do. Living (and eating) at a pace that is actually normal for a human being will make you stick out like a sore thumb in this culture. You might even feel guilty or lazy if you opt for a slower tempo! Unfortunately, this predisposes us to a host of negative health consequences.
We’ve chosen eating at least one meal slowly and in community per day as one of our core healthy habits because it is a powerful antidote to our lonely, rushed culture. It’s one of those “mom values”- like cleaning behind your ears or changing your underwear- that everybody knows is important. Yet culturally we are moving away from home-cooked, family meals around the dining-room table. However, we’re not requiring that this meal be dinner or even be eaten around the table at home. We simply want to challenge you to slow down at least once a day and eat with someone, anyone!
Eating slowly has been shown in research to carry a number of benefits, including reducing excessive caloric consumption, increasing satiety levels, and optimizing balance of digestive hormones! There are even studies that correlate higher body mass index with self-reported faster eating. This all makes a ton of sense if you understand human physiology on even the most basic level: homeostasis. Homeostasis is simply the term used to describe the body’s way of keeping itself balanced. It achieves this through shifting back and forth between two modes: Fight or Flight, and Rest and Digest. The scientific terms for these two modes are sympathetic and parasympathetic, respectively. Like oil and water, these two modes do not like to mix, and a lot of problems occur when they do. Speaking of motherly wisdom, the reason kids are told to wait an hour after they eat before getting in the pool is because eating is a parasympathetic (rest and digest) activity, while swimming (which registers deep in your brain not as recreation but as preventing death by suffocation) is sympathetic (fight or flight).
When we eat meals by ourselves we are more likely to rush through them, neurally treating them not as rest and digest but as fight or flight; we fight to eat as quickly as possible before flying on to the next activity. Think of these two modes like gears on a car. When you need to go slowly and mindfully up a hill on a dirt road, you shift your car into Low. When you are driving on the freeway, you shift your car into Drive (some of you cool kids drive stick but you get the gist). Each gear is suited for its own purpose, and while you technically could drive on the freeway in Low or in the dirt in Drive, neither would be very safe or sustainable.
Like LA, life is full of freeways. Treat eating like driving down a scenic dirt road. Keep it low, slow, and steady. Enjoy the views. Smell the flowers. And talk to your co-pilot.
Oh, did we mention eating most meals alone is linked to long-term unhappiness? Eating slowly and community doesn’t just fill your belly, it fills your heart too!