A month-long challenge that will change your mind and body

Woman Healthy Eating Resized

Not planning to partake in Dry July? Here’s an alternative challenge for July that’s likely to leave you weighing less and feeling better. About everything.

The challenge is to eat slowly and mindfully for the month.

Most of us get hung up on what to eat. Is it OK to eat bread? And potato? What about fat?

But how we eat is just as important as what we eat.

There’s nothing magic about July, other than it’s smack in the middle of winter, when it’s ridiculously easy to overeat.

So no one’s asking you to deprive yourself of your favourite winter fare, just to slow down and really try to savour it.

This has multiple benefits.

For a start it’s good for your digestion. If you typically get a bit windy or bloated, this could well make a difference because when you eat quickly you take bigger bites and chew less.

This means your food doesn’t break down in your gut as well as it should, so you’re not able to absorb nutrients well. Slow down and you improve your uptake of vitamins and minerals.

Second, it’s the key to not overeating.

Eating too much goes hand-in-hand with eating too quickly. You know the story: one minute you’re feeling peckish and the next you realise you’ve just polished off last night’s leftovers while standing at the fridge or leaning over the sink.

Here’s how to eat slowly. Before you start eating, stop and take a breath. Take a bite. Chew it well. Swallow.

Take another breath. Then another bite. Chew. Swallow. Breathe. Bite.

It may just get us out of the habit of rushing and pretending that everything has to be busy.

I recently read a lovely piece by a French artist and photographer about beauty. He talked about his late friend, a 90-year old woman who would sit down at a table and notice her surroundings rather than wolfing into a meal. His point was that when we do everything quickly we miss the beauty in everyday life.

Between bites, try putting down your cutlery or taking a sip of water and feeling your body and mind relax. If the little voice in your head starts chastising you for wasting time, smile and ignore it.

You’re aiming for a calm environment where you can simply enjoy eating. Sit down, preferably at a table and without distractions. Don’t eat while you’re driving.

At times you’ll no doubt catch yourself in racing mode. When you do, stop. Breathe. Refocus.

The third benefit is that you’re likely to eat less. Remember that it takes 20 minutes for your body to register that it’s had enough to eat. Some of us can inhale two meals in that time.

By slowing down we also feel more satisfied. And in the process we learn to recognise and trust our body’s signals that we’re hungry or full.

Eating slowly isn’t a waste of our time. When it comes to being well and healthy, it could be the most valuable thing we can do for ourselves.

At the end of the month you can assess the benefits. If the pluses outweigh the minuses go ahead and do it for August. You might just decide to make it a lifelong habit.

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