Chew on This

How savoring what you eat, vs. scarfing, leads to a healthier you

At G.W. Carver Elementary School in Coconut Grove, Khristopher James smells basil. By savoring the tastes of food – and eating more mindfully — studies have shown that people live a healthier lifestyle than those who scarf down food.
At G.W. Carver Elementary School in Coconut Grove, Khristopher James smells basil. By savoring the tastes of food – and eating more mindfully — studies have shown that people live a healthier lifestyle than those who scarf down food. Miami Herald File Photo

What is your eating style and does it influence the amount of food you eat and how you feel? Taste, cost, availability and perceived health benefit are reasons a particular food is chosen but that doesn’t get to eating style. A recent article in the journal Appetite delved into this question.

These authors described two styles of eating. The visceral eater responds to urges of hunger or emotions. Visceral eating pleasure is defined as the short-lived relief created by the satisfaction of eating impulses. Think of the driver scarfing down food leaving the drive-thru. The epicurean eating style is defined by the pleasure derived from the appreciation of the taste and symbolic value of food. We all display both styles but there is a case to be made for becoming more of an epicurean.

The subjects for the study were 250 people who answered an ad. They were given a number of surveys which determined primary eating style and feelings about health. Height and weight were also collected. Analysis revealed that epicurean tendencies are associated with a preference for smaller portions and with greater sense of well-being. Visceral eating is associated with a preference for larger portions, higher BMI and a lower feeling of well-being.

It is easy to enhance your hidden epicurean. Take care in how food is presented — make it colorful and tasty. Talk about the spices or name your dishes. Tell a story about an entrée. A friend of mine is writing down her favorite recipes for her new daughter-in-law. You can be sure when one of those dishes is prepared it will be an epicurean feast. The overriding theme here is mindfulness about what we eat. Paying attention leads to a positive outcome. Eating pleasure is not the enemy of healthy eating. In fact, pleasure just might be the answer.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.

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