Honor thy burp: How to know when to stop eating


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 portions. There are many guidelines that are supposed to help – holding 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.

​Unfortunately many of us have been trained to equate burping with rudeness and have learned to suppress that urge. In Ayurveda, the first burp is actually a function that can lead to greater health because it stops us from overeating.

Why you should avoid overeating

Eating too much food in one sitting is one of the greatest causes for creation of 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 longer and will disrupt 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.

The simple practice of tuning in to the first burp as a sign to stop eating can reverse this disease process and make you feel much better.

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 for now.” Being conscious of your first burp allows you to eat the amount food your body can digest so you can feel better and look better.

​Burping is a simple movement of air from the stomach. The first burp that comes after you have begun eating is rarely offensive in sound or odor (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 suppress or ignore this important sign and will continue eating long after their stomachs are full.

The first burp as an Ayurvedic tool for healthy weight

Overeating causes weight gain. When you stop eating before or at the first burp, you give your body the right amount of food it can digest. 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 a few days to a few weeks you 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 diet, but a healthy way of eating that respects the condition of your body, resulting in steady, healthy weight loss and a more balanced state of being.

What can get in the way of noticing the first burp?

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 signal. 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 slow deep breaths before eating and commit to eating in a relaxing environment (leave out television, reading or anything to distract you, especially intense conversations). This gives you the opportunity to eat at a moderate pace, chew until your food is no longer solid and truly appreciate each bite and the nourishment 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.

When to ask for help

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. ​

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