Bon appetite: taste buds versus waistline in 2017

You probably had “lose weight” on your New Year’s Resolution list for 2017 and this is the most perfect time of year to start paying more attention to a part of your body that you may have been ignoring for a long time; your tongue.

We all know without our tongues we couldn’t speak, but we also couldn’t enjoy our food because that’s where all those little taste buds are.

Once, when my kids were teenagers, we were sitting at the dinner table and I suddenly noticed everyone was pigging out, scarfing, gulping, guzzling, gobbling, chowing, wolfing and slugging down food like a bunch of animals. You’d have thought we were all going to be late for a flight!

Since I know words don’t teach as well as experience does, I decided to prepare a special meal for the next dinner we’d be eating together.

I wanted to get their attention, without words, to help us all be more aware of this marvelous gift we have…our ability to enjoy our food.

Here’s what I did.

I prepared a miniature, holiday feast, using a Cornish game hen instead of a turkey, along with all the trimmings in miniature. I bought a cheap, children’s tea set with plates smaller than saucers and itty, bitty serving dishes for mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, fruit salad, stuffing, a little ladle for gravy, a teeny, tiny casserole dish for sweet potatoes with miniature marshmallows cut in quarters and so on. I cut a cube of butter about an inch and a half long and found a lid to a Vaseline jar that was perfect for it to fit on. I used a 3x5 card to make a cylinder to cut cranberry sauce into a tiny cylinder, like it came out of a tiny can. I baked rolls the size of large grapes and put them in a little basket and cut a square of material for a napkin to keep them warm.

The most amazing thing happened at that meal. First, the shock of seeing that mini meal on the dining room table, along with the tiny plates, made everyone very curious, which was the exact mood I was after! We kind of felt like how Gulliver would have felt sitting down to a Christmas dinner at one of the Lilliputian’s homes.

Second, we took tiny portions as we passed around the food I’d prepared. I’d roasted two Cornish Game Hens, so I could have one uncarved for the photo op I wanted to take, and I cut one up into the parts. I put the dark meat; wings, drumsticks and thighs, on one side of the platter, which was about the size of a thank you note, and the breast meat on the other side. I can still see my son holding a drumstick no bigger than his thumb, eating a tiny bite from it. He reminded me of Tom Hanks in the movie “Big” when he ate one of those miniature corn-on-the-cob things the way you’d eat a regular sized one.

Because of the size of the meal, we naturally took small bites. The small bites made us more aware of what our tongues do with the food we put in our mouths and we all seemed to slow down and become more aware of the whole eating process.

For a moment, think of your tongue as an audience and the food you put into your mouth as entertainment. If you hired Ellen DeGeneres to speak to your group, would you kick her out after five seconds?

When you put a bite of food (entertainment for your tongue) in your mouth and chew it five times (the average amount of chews I observe when watching people eat in a restaurant) and swallow, you’re kicking out the entertainment when it’s just getting started! The longer a bite of food stays on stage the more enjoyment you get out of each bite.

You don’t need to count your chews, just make sure the food doesn’t leave the stage until it’s baby food consistency. Think of your mouth as a food processor and you put it on “puree” not chop. (The reason the pharmacy shelves are loaded with Tums, Pepto-Bismol and a million other antacids is because we’re swallowing chunks, not pureeing our food before we swallow. Our teeth are the hardest substance in our bodies. There are no teeth in our stomachs, so use your teeth and you won’t need pharmaceuticals.)

Americans gain, on average, two pounds during the holiday season, but they only lose one of those pounds. That’s why the average old person’s body is way bigger than the average young person’s body; they’ve been through way more holiday seasons.

By enjoying every single bite we take, we won’t get bigger when we get older. The more you chew each bite, the more awareness you have in the eating process and the more you’ll enjoy your food.

When we eat too fast we miss a special voice in us that tells us we’ve had enough. Actually there are three voices in our heads that have to do with eating. One voice is very loud! When you’re hungry, you know it! That voice screams, “I’m starving!!!!) There’s another voice that’s just as loud. It’s a whiny voice that moans, “Arghh! I’m full, I ate too much!!!!” But there’s that third voice that’s very quiet and unless you slow down and chew at least 30 to 60 chews per bite (the size of a large grape, not an apricot) you won’t hear the voice that says, “I’ve had just what I need.” That quiet voice is subtle, but when you slow down at mealtime, you’ll hear it and you’ll realize you’re content.

For more from Pam Young go to You’ll find many musings, videos of Pam in the kitchen preparing delicious meals, videos on how to get organized, lose weight and get your finances in order, all from a reformed SLOB’s point of view.