It was the Indian buffet that really did me in.
Shera Punjab, 1994. I deliberately skimped on breakfast that day. The Sunday lunch buffet was one of the few Shaw family traditions that every one of us awaited with the same rapacious hunger. When I arrived at the starting line, plate in hand, I was ready to devour every crispy samosa, every glorious cube of matter paneer, every gulab jamun my eyes could see.
I could have eaten the tamarind chutney with a spoon.
I returned to the table with a very full plate, the first plate to curb my hunger. I ate swiftly, and approached my second plateful with more discrimination. I knew I couldn’t fit much more in my stomach, so I had to choose wisely. Which flavours did I want to savour till the very end?
I knew I didn’t have room for that dessert (never mind that second plate). But I couldn’t resist a gulab and a bowlful of kheer (and a spoonful of mango ice cream).
Towards the end of my second gulab, my stomach started hurt.
I went home, and spent the rest of the day lying on the couch, miserable, waiting impatiently for my food to digest. I took a nap, and then woke up even sicker than before. My skin took on the colour of masala. I cried tears of ghee. On Monday, I was still full. I promised myself I would never go to a buffet hungry ever again (this rule I violated several times in
That Sunday at Shera traumatised me. I never wanted to feel that full ever again.
I decided to make a conscious effort to slow down.
Weeks later, I could finally attempt eating again. With caution, I put the first bite in my mouth, then put my fork down, and didn’t allow myself to pick the fork up again until I had fully chewed and swallowed my food. At first, this took a great deal of mental effort, but in only a few weeks it became habit – a habit I enjoyed more than saag aloo. I’ve always loved to eat, but now I loved to savour.
It now takes me a blissful 30-60 minutes to consume a meal. At least. I eat slowly enough for my brain to realize when I’m full, so I never overdo it. Sometimes I eat so slowly that I never seem to get full, and I can just eat and eat and eat. This works especially well for movies and long train trips, but not so well for quick lunches with the workmates.
I’m not alone in my love of slow eating; there’s a whole Slow Food organization. They believe that slow eating is not only about health, it’s about a lifestyle where “slow, long-lasting enjoyment” takes precedent over the “multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency”.
In celebration of slow food, zen habits sites 5 excellent reasons why you too should consider the “simple” act of slow eating:
- Lose weight. A growing number of studies confirm that just by eating slower, you’ll consume fewer calories — in fact, enough to lose 20 pounds a year without doing anything different or eating anything different. The reason is that it takes about 20 minutes for our brains to register that we’re full. If we eat fast, we can continue eating past the point where we’re full. If we eat slowly, we have time to realize we’re full, and stop on time. Now, I would still recommend that you eat healthier foods, but if you’re looking to lose weight, eating slowly should be a part of your new lifestyle.
- Enjoy your food. This reason is just as powerful, in my opinion. It’s hard to enjoy your food if it goes by too quickly. In fact, I think it’s fine to eat sinful foods, if you eat a small amount slowly. Think about it: you want to eat sinful foods (desserts, fried foods, pizza, etc.) because they taste good. But if you eat them fast, what’s the point? If you eat them slowly, you can get the same amount of great taste, but with less going into your stomach. That’s math that works for me. And that argument aside, I think you are just happier by tasting great food and enjoying it fully, by eating slowly. Make your meals a gastronomic pleasure, not a thing you do rushed, between stressful events.
- Better digestion. If you eat slower, you’ll chew your food better, which leads to better digestion. Digestion actually starts in the mouth, so the more work you do up there, the less you’ll have to do in your stomach. This can help lead to fewer digestive problems.
- Less stress. Eating slowly, and paying attention to our eating, can be a great form of mindfulness exercise. Be in the moment, rather than rushing through a meal thinking about what you need to do next. When you eat, you should eat. This kind of mindfulness, I believe, will lead to a less stressful life, and long-term happiness. Give it a try.
- Rebel against fast food and fast life. Our hectic, fast-paced, stressful, chaotic lives — the Fast Life — leads to eating Fast Food, and eating it quickly. This is a lifestyle that is dehumanizing us, making us unhealthy, stressed out, and unhappy. We rush through our day, doing one mindless task after another, without taking the time to live life, to enjoy life, to relate to each other, to be human. That’s not a good thing in my book. Instead, rebel against that entire lifestyle and philosophy … with the small act of eating slower. Don’t eat Fast Food. Eat at a good restaurant, or better yet, cook your own food and enjoy it fully. Taste life itself.