Food is so much a part of our culture and our social interaction that the joys of mealtime can’t be denied. The vast number of videos and television shows about food preparation give evidence of our epicurean nature. To be an epicure is to be one who has a supreme love of fine foods and drink. The word epicure comes from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who lived in Athens in the third century BCE.
In our home, the bookshelves are filled with a vast array of recipe books that highlight our taste for vegan dishes. And there are few things more satisfying than to serve company with your favorite recipes. My wife Katrina is always delighting me with everything from raw vegan ice cream to delicious meals right out of our own garden. For us, mealtime is sacred, and even more so when it is shared with friends.
Epicurus wrote, “To eat and drink without a friend is to devour like the lion and the wolf.” The lion and the wolf, being carnivores, simply swallow their food and eat, not for pleasure, but for survival. It’s much the way that so many of us eat when we’re in a hurry or stressed and anxious about our affairs, which never allows us to feel well. Eating like the lion and the wolf has given rise to our multi-billion-dollar fast food industry.
While this sad state of affairs is obvious, there’s also a healthy organic revolution that has been impacting even major grocery chains, forcing them to offer organic fruits and vegetables. More and more people are eating healthy foods.
But if we’re getting healthy foods, we shouldn’t have any health problems, should we?
Let’s look at this more carefully. First of all, if you take your time eating, you’re chewing your food more thoroughly and more of the digestive enzymes have a chance to do their job, meaning you’ll be receiving more nutrition from your already healthy food. At the turn of the last century, Horace Fletcher introduced a way of eating that allowed many people to enjoy their food, lose weight, and feel healthier. It became a movement called “Fletcherism” where you chewed each morsel of food 20 to 30 times before swallowing it. The time spent tasting and chewing each bite made a meal a truly epicurean delight.
Another thing takes place when you spend more time chewing: since your body is receiving nutrition that would otherwise be eliminated, it takes less food to satisfy the body’s requirements. I have a theory that so many folks overeat because their bodies are crying out not for more food, but for more nutrition. So, when you, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “chew your drink and drink your food,” you’re getting the most out of it that you can. Of course, this also means taking longer to eat your meal, which is seldom possible when you’re on the run.
Another problem with being on a tight schedule and attempting to cram in more activity than time permits is that stress hormones become elevated. As an example, the stress hormone cortisol is directly associated with increased appetite and causes excess circulated fat to be stored in the abdomen. The more weight you carry, the more of the cortisol-activating enzyme accumulates in fat cells, allowing even more cortisol release into the body, which creates an insatiable appetite. Stress also disrupts sleep patterns. When you’re not getting enough sleep, the hormone leptin, which tells your appetite to shut down because you’ve eaten enough, is turned off—which means its sister hormone, ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite, is turned on, keeping you hungry.
So, what’s the message? It’s simply to eat slowly and enjoy your food with friends and family. Don’t eat on the run or when you’re worried or nervous. Don’t eat standing up: sit and take your time. Spend time chewing and tasting your food. Savor the experience. Eat organic and fresh produce as much as possible. Frequent fine restaurants that serve fresh organic foods and fully enjoy the experience. You’ll eat less, enjoy it more, and feel better!
To Your Health,