Have you ever sat down in front of the television with a bag of chips and suddenly reached into the bag to find it empty?
It's Super Bowl time and the stores are stocked with all of the game-time favorites. A plethora of buffalo wings, chips and beer. We will all be watching the game so intently that we will seldom be aware of what and how much we are shoving into our mouths.
You get to half time and wonder 'where did all the chips go!" You don't remember eating them all. Sometimes you're at a party so busy socializing that you don't realize you've just consumed things you swore you wouldn't. And all of that tasting while cooking; does that add up?
While multitasking at work is a promotable asset, it is a bad habit to multitask while eating. People are often rushed and find it necessary to eat on-the-run, eat while standing and eat behind their computer. Have you ever found yourself eating over the sink to find out afterwards that you are still hungry?
One way to alleviate the stress of eating under hurried conditions and decrease the extra calories you consume from these bad habits is simply to pay attention. Eating is a way we fuel our bodies. It should be nurturing, relaxing and pleasant. The pleasure of eating lies in slowing down and fully experiencing all of the elements of food. Take some time to explore each of the following during your next meal and notice the difference.
- Sight: Look at your food you are about to eat. Notice the various colors. The more variety of colors, the healthier. Try to mix dark green leafy vegetables with red tomatoes, yellow peppers or squash, orange sweet potato to cool green cucumbers and celery. Notice the moisture in the juicy beef or tender chicken. Can you see the water, the rain and the sunlight within the food?
- Smell: Bring the food up to your nose. Without naming the scent, experience smelling the food, and then describe what you smell. Each vegetable has its own smell from sweet basil to the pungent scent of kale. There are fragrances in various grains, fruits and meats.
- Physiological reaction: Now focus on what is going on in your mouth. Begin to notice that saliva is produced, even though you haven't yet put the food in your mouth. Notice the mind/body phenomenon and how the senses respond to the anticipation of food being eaten. Think about all of the people involved in getting this meal to your plate. The farmer or rancher who tended it, to the harvester. The people who shipped it to the store to the store who arranged it, to the person who selected and prepared this meal with love and care. It is amazing to realize all the people involved in one meal.
- Motion and movement: Stop in between each forkful of food. Notice your mouth receiving each morsel of food. It is okay to put the fork down and enjoy each mouthful. Many people hold the fork in a death-grip without realizing it. Observe what the tongue does. How does it get the food between the teeth? It's amazing that the tongue is so skilled, and that such a remarkable muscle can actually receive food and then know what to do with it every time.
- Taste: After becoming aware of the food in your mouth, start biting into it very slowly. Then begin to chew. Notice that the tongue decides which side of the mouth it's going to chew on. Give all your attention to your mouth and take a few bites. Then stop to experience what's happening. What is happening is invariably an explosion of taste. Express what's going on. Be really specific. What is the experience? Is it sweet or sour or juicy? There are hundreds of words to describe the experience of tasting.
- Texture: As you continue to chew the tastes change, as does the consistency. At a certain point you will become aware of the texture of the food because the taste has mostly passed. Explore how the food feels in your mouth. Is it smooth, crunchy, light? Does it refresh with a cool sensation or soothe with warmth?
- Swallow: Don’t hurry to swallow. Experience chewing. Observe what is involved in getting the food over to the place where it's going to be swallowed. When you detect the impulse to swallow, follow it down into the stomach, feel the sensation of each bite satiating your appetite.
- Appreciation: Don't be so quick to jump up after your meal. Pause a moment and appreciate the satiated feeling. Acknowledge the people involved in bringing this meal to your body and how it nourished, fills and energies it.
Eating is a necessity, but it is also a social event. Gathering with friends and family over a meal is a way to share nourishment as well as conversation, time and enjoyment. For more information on healthy eating see Let's get FITS Nutrition.