I recently watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love and was reminded again of why I love Italy. Besides the breathtaking beauty of the cities and the countryside, the food is amazing and the way the Italians enjoy themselves is contagious and appealing. In one of the scenes in the movie, an Italian was trying to explain to an American about “dolce farninte” (translated as “the sweetness of doing nothing” or “pleasant idleness”). I think most Americans (myself included) could use an extended course in how to master this art of dolce farninte.
In fact, many of the ills of our fast food, fast-paced society could be healed through a little bit of slowing down and smelling the roses. According to Marc David, in his book “The Slow Down Diet,” there are many reasons we should relax and take a few breaths. First of all, did you know that if you eat when you are relaxed you actually metabolize your food better? Yes, throwing your food mindlessly into your body while you are stressed out at work has pretty negative health consequences such as weight gain and other stomach disorders. It’s all easily explained by our biology. When we are stressed, we our dominated by sympathetic nervous system activity and our digestive system shuts down. When we relax, we activate the parasympathic nervous system and this is when our digestive tract becomes engaged.
Therefore, here are some suggestions.
(1) Take your time and eat your food more slowly. How? Read on…
(2) Take 10 long deep breaths before you start eating. Breathe out more fully than you breathe in. This will increase endorphin release in the body and produce a sense of relaxation as well as activate the digestive system.
(3) Breathe while you eat. Notice when you start getting in a hurry and take a couple of deep breaths. Did you know that sometimes when you think you are hungry for food you are actually hungry for oxygen?
(4) Have your meals with people you enjoy as much as possible. Enjoy them as much as you enjoy your food.
(5) Eat in surroundings that make you feel relaxed. Light some candles. Put on some good music.
(6) Really savor the food that you’re eating. By the way, it is easier to savor your food if it is non-processed, fresh, quality food. Junk food is pretty hard to savor.
So, if you want a diet plan that costs nothing and is really good for you, slow down and breathe. And from time to time you might even try the “sweetness of doing nothing” and pretend you’re Italian. Think about that the next time you think you want something sweet.