Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chew on This: Might You Have the Hoover Syndrome?

Bright, festive dishes like green bean salad are a feast for the eyes and can be for the mouth if eaten at the proper pace. Photo from Whole Foods Market.


Hoover or not to Hoover, that is the question.

Tell me, have you ever had this experience? One minute there is a plate full of delicious food in front of you, the next minute – poof – it’s gone, and you have absolutely no idea where it all went? If this is the case, then you suffer from Hoover Syndrome (HS)

What exactly is HS? It's a condition marked by one mentally checking out right before s/he eats a meal while having no clue what s/he ate or how it tasted after sucking it down in a New York minute – like a vacuum cleaner, probably a Hoover.

We are all guilty of it, including me, from time to time. HS usually occurs while we are sitting in front of the television or computer, reading a book or magazine, talking on the phone or multitasking while at the same time eating a meal or snack. When we fail to turn our full attention to the process of eating, we tend to be less mindful of what and how we are eating. Thus, leading to less-than satisfying meals and excessive snacking because the brain doesn't register what’s being eaten, causing hunger and persistent cravings.

When we suck up our food like a vacuum cleaner, it promotes hunger, cravings and gas. Photo from Compare Vaccum Cleaners.

Did you know that eating begins with the simple act of chewing? The next time you eat a meal alone or with others, observe your eating habits. Are you rushing and taking mega bites before you have even swallowed the previous one? Or are you relaxed, taking one bite at a time then chewing your food until it becomes nothing but liquid in your mouth?

Before you sit down for your next meal at the kitchen table be sure to check out NYC Healthy Chick's Chewy Good Tips:
Chew each mouthful of food at least 30 times before swallowing. Chewing breaks down food and makes it easier on the stomach and small intestine to digest;

2. Saliva assists in the digestion of carbohydrates. Saliva also makes food more alkaline, which creates less gas. Nobody likes having gas. Gas is experienced in the stomach and intestine, but it is caused by spleen imbalances;

3. If under pressure at meal time, take deep breaths, chew, and let the simple act of chewing relax you. When you learn to slow down and enjoy your meal, you get to have a party in your mouth that is bursting with a whole spectrum of tastes and aromas;

4. Create a ritual for good chewing before, during and after your meal. I have done this myself and I always have fun while honoring the food I am eating to nourish my body;

An apple a day can keep the doctor away. Such a healthy food choice also aids in honing chewing skills. Photo from Redmond Molloy.

5. I wash my hands, then create a clean quiet place to eat. If I am at home, I play soft, relaxing music – usually is Chris Botti's “Italia” (2007). I bless my food by saying, "Bless this food and where it goes in my body. Amen." I stretch, breathe, align my spine before taking my first bite and continue doing so throughout the meal. In between bites, I put my utensils down and place my hands on my lap; I partially close my eyes. If alone, I say thanks at the end of my meal. With friends, I sit and talk after the meal. Even better is to go for a walk afterward.

Below are two of NYC Healthy Chick's sure-fire hits to get you practicing your new chewing and eating habits pronto.

Green Bean Salad With Goat Cheese Dressing. Not only is this dish colorful and tangy, the balance of crisp-cooked green beans and sweet raw corn kernels gets those juices firing inside of your mouth that will knock your socks off. (

Imagine you are a Martian scientist when trying out Baked Artichokes Stuffed with Red Quinoa. Explore this hearty dish as though it's your first time seeing it.

When you create a relaxing process around eating, your food experience is more rewarding and fulfilling. This is the shift I have personally experienced over the past years since becoming a holistic health counselor and it has enhanced the juicy, sassy and healthy lifestyle I have created for myself.

With its combination of texture, color and hearty flavors, artichoke stuffed with red qunioa is a dish that should be savored, not swallowed whole. Photo by Whole Foods Market.

A caveat: One of the last places to practice your new eating and chewing habit is at a fast-food restaurant. Typically, the lighting is bright and music is playing to keep you moving along fast. Further, the food is dead and loaded with salt, sugar and fat to keep your brain craving it until the next meal at the establishment. I cannot stress enough that fast food should almost never be consumed unless it is the only choice on a long, Interstate roadtrip.

If you find yourself contemplating a trip to a major fast food burger chain that won’t be named for a Big triple-decker sandwich – don’t do it. Instead, find a quiet, clean place to enjoy a healthy balanced meal that will rock your world like a Michael Jackson video ( and give yourself a fulfilling eating experience that will last you for hours.

Chew, chew, chew, so you don't end up with a tummy full of gas. Your stomach and small intestines will thank you for it later.

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