Eating lunch at Whole Foods the other day, a group of university girls sat at the next table playing cards. One of them pulled out a chocolate bar and proceeded to facetiously read the instructions on “How to Enjoy” said chocolate. It started with yogic breaths, then engaged all 5 senses in order to get a full experience out of one square of chocolate.
They giggled, and some of them shyly tried to follow the steps. I stopped and sat back from my own meal.
There I was, scarfing down my quinoa and broccoli salad, thinking about the airport shuttle I needed to catch in half an hour. I noticed that I wasn’t even using the one sense I’d expect to when eating.
I love food and I love eating. I love eating good food. My favourites usually involve a full sensual experience:
The crisp, tart, juicy bite of a freshly picked apple in the orchard, bees buzzing, sun filtering through the branches.
The way a dollop of beet-chile sorbet ironically heats up a bowl of avocado & cucumber gazpacho with both colour and spice.
The aromatic marriage in any stew or curry that elevates the whole to be sublimely greater than the sum of its parts.
If you’re anything like me, you expect a lot from your food:
- Make you happy
- Make you thinner
- Keep you full for hours or at least keep your cravings at bay
- Help you celebrate your wins
- Comfort you when you lose
- Give you more energy
- Reduce your inflammation
- Heal your pain
Before you can expect food to do anything for you, you need to open yourself to your food and to the experience of eating.
With all 5 senses.
With your entire Being.
Without the joy, the pleasure, the love, then everything we put into our mouths becomes nothing more than a parcel of nutrients and calories. Another thing to count. Another item to add to the overflowing To Do list.
Reduced this way, good food and nourishing yourself becomes a burden.
Maybe it’s not such a far-fetched idea after all, to need directions on how to eat a chocolate bar. Perhaps we would do well to have such instructions on all our food labels. A reminder to slow down and enjoy the food, not just consume it.
Rather than daily values and percentages on product labels, I love that Health Canada, in renewing its principles for the new food guide in 2018, has proposed that you:
- take a moment to breathe as you sit down;
- appreciate the time and effort it took to grow the food you see, prepare the meal in front of you;
- take the time to smell and savour your food;
- admire the colours and composition – my son’s into Master Chef and other cooking shows, so he’s all about the plating;
- hear the crunch, feel the creaminess;
- open yourself to the possibilities of what each mouthful has to offer you, for your health, for your pleasure; what sweetness does this meal evoke in your life?
- tune in to what your body needs, and recognise when you have received it.
(Can’t wait for these to show up on labels!)
I propose that by paying attention to your deep wants and your true needs, your body will guide you to the right balance every time.
When was the last time you enjoyed a meal with your whole being? I’d love to hear all about it. When you share in the comments, you open the possibility for others.
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LOVE this beautiful soulful lesson in mindful eating, cathy. thank you for the lusciousness.
Such a beautiful reminder to enjoy the simple pleasures in life such as eating and experiencing it sensationally. Really lovely Cathy – thank you.
I think time often prevents me from fully enjoying a meal with all my senses. It’s always a rush to get supper on the table, and then a rush to get somewhere or get to the homework etc. after dinner. BUT, when I have a glass of wine with my meal, it elevates the whole thing and makes me appreciate every bite. It also feels indulgent, so I take more time to savour.
BUT, I am trying to lose weight and drink less, so what’s the answer?!
Good question, Jane.
I noticed a similar pattern in my own eating when I eat out: I take the time to really taste the flavours and notice the composition on my plate or how the wine compliments it, etc. I rarely do this at home. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent $30 on the plate of food, or maybe it’s knowing that a chef has prepared it in a way that’s more elevated than how I cook at home which compels me to slow down and enjoy.
And so I try, every once in a while, to eat my own humble fare as if I were sitting in a restaurant with a glass of wine. What helps with this home elevation is to take a special step somewhere along the way – maybe trying a new recipe or adding fun side-dish or condiment to the mix. It also helps to sip a glass of Perrier or kombucha or water with a slice of lime from my favourite wine glass. One thing I know for sure is that slowing down helps you eat less – you notice when you’re sated – a big help if the excess weight is at all due to too much intake.
love this blog! I love that we are sensual beings – Yes eating can be an artful sensory experience yum !!!
I’ve eaten that chocolate. It’s lovely. 😉
And I’m thrilled at your recommendations for the FDA. I’m guilty of always eating on the go or in front of the TV. I live alone, and the TV is much more enticing than sitting by myself in a quiet kitchen night after night after night after night.
But I DID sit quietly and eat mindfully for breakfast this morning as a part of my new morning grounding practice. Perhaps if I begin this with one meal a day, the good habit will filter into the rest of the day. It will be a delicious experiment.
One step at a time…even the journey of a thousand miles…Enjoy!
Mindfulness. And being present. That’s what this makes me think of. It’s so true, not just with food, but with so much we do that we aren’t fully present and aware.
Great reminder – to take a moment and enjoy food fully!
Absolutely, Valerie. In fact, you could probably read most of my articles about food & eating, and replace it with any other part of your life, and it would still apply.
Lovely post Cathy. I have a love/hate relationship with food. I eat to fuel my body and I refuse to eat foods that I don’t like – just because they are healthy – but to be honest, I don’t love everything I eat. When I used to diet, that was my rule…if you don’t enjoy it, don’t eat it. Now, I try to hide things behind other flavors because it’s good for me. When I retire, I want to spend more time planning foods that I love. I just hired someone to prepare my food and went through my recipe books and post-it everything that looks good. I don’t know that I will savor any of it…but it sure is nice to have it ready and not have to think about it too much. Thanks for making me think! ~Cathy
Cathy, you’ve brought up a very important aspect of this piece. In fact, my next post on May 4th will be about exactly that: don’t eat it if you don’t enjoy it. Such a brilliant step to hire someone to do your cooking – even with the recipes, they’ll have their own way of doing things that you may not be used to. That in and of itself could change the way you feel about certain foods. Though, beyond the flavour, what else can you enjoy about the meal? (Again there will be more about this in a couple of weeks, I’d love to hear if there have been any shifts between now and then.)
Wow–what a change that would make–mindfulness in eating. I don’t know how many times I just scarf done food because I’m too tired/cranky/busy to stop what I’m doing and enjoy the experience. Great reminder to breathe and be mindful. I’ll be practicing that this weekend!
How did it go, Julia?
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