How much food should you eat at a meal? It’s a common question that comes up frequently, especially as restaurants push us to eat larger and larger portions. There are many guidelines that are supposed to help – cupping your hands together for an ideal serving size, eating until you are 80% full or remembering that your brain doesn’t register fullness until 20 minutes after you are actually full – but none of these tools have the simplicity and ease of the one naturally built-in function our bodies have to tell us when to stop eating: the first burp.
Why you should avoid overeating
Eating too much food in one sitting is one of the greatest causes for ama, toxins, to build up in the body. Your body has a limit to how hard it can work to digest a meal, just like how your car has a limit to how far it can drive on a tank of gas. When you eat more than your body can digest properly, the excess food ferments in your digestive tract until it is broken down enough to be eliminated. This fermentation can take days to weeks and will slow down the digestive process for many meals to come. This results in noticeable symptoms, such as sluggishness, gas, bloating, indigestion and heartburn. If untreated, these symptoms will eventually lead to illness and disease.
Why is the first burp such an effective sign to stop eating?
The first burp is a signal directly from your own body, saying, “that’s enough now.” Being conscious of your first burp allows you to eat the right amount food so you can feel better and look better.
Burping is a simple movement of air from the stomach up the esophagus. The first burp that comes after you have begun eating is rarely offensive in sound or smell (if it is, that is likely a sign of fermentation, indigestion or a result of drinking carbonated beverages with your meal). Because this first burp is so subtle and we have been taught that all burping is rude, many people have learned to ignore this important sign and will continue eating long after their stomachs have filled with food.
The first burp as an Ayurvedic tool for healthy weight
Overeating causes weight gain. When you eat until the first burp, you give your body the exact amount of food it needs to function. If you are used to eating too much in one sitting you may find that you still feel hungry at the first burp. Honor this message from your body anyway – in about two weeks or less your body will adjust to eating the right amount of food. And because you are listening to your body, over time, you will lose excess weight that you have accumulated from overeating. This is not a crash diet, but a healthy way of eating that respects the limits of your body, resulting in steady, healthy weight loss and a more balanced state of being.
Because few people understand the importance of the first burp, it’s very easy to ignore this sign. Here are five common issues that can get in the way of honoring your burp:
- Eating while anxious. This causes your diaphragm to constrict and will lead to suppression of your first burp or excess burping.
- Talking too much during eating. You may be too focused on the conversation to tune in to your body or eat too slowly because you are talking a lot.
- Eating too quickly or drinking too much (especially carbonated beverages and beer) can mask the true first burp.
- Years of suppressing the first burp because of a fear of being rude leads to disassociation with the burp or even swallowing the burp. Many people who claim they don’t burp are actually just used to suppressing this natural sign. When they tune in, they realize that they do, in fact, burp at the moment their body says it’s full.
A simple way to tune back in to your burp is to take three deep breaths before eating and commit to eating in a relaxing environment (no television, reading or phones to distract you and no intense conversations). This sets you up to eat at a moderate pace, chew until your food is liquid and truly appreciate each bite and what it is doing for your body. You may notice the burp the first time you eat in a balanced way or it could take a few meals. Your body will eventually relax and you’ll be able to notice this subtle and important signal.
If you have been attempting to tune in to your first burp unsuccessfully for some time, it may be time for a health consultation. A trusted Ayurvedic practitioner can help you find ways to release emotional and physical barriers that are getting in the way of your natural state of health. Poor digestion is often years in the making and, depending on your state of imbalance, will take time to correct. But rest assured that no matter where you are on your journey to health, you will find balance and freedom in your body by taking the proper steps to reset your digestion.