Have you ever noticed how fast or slow you eat your meal? Over a year ago, I started practicing mindful eating. For me, that meant eating at least one meal a day without distractions ~ no phone, computer, tv, or book by my side. I live alone so it’s easy to multitask (although many people are guilty of this too) during a meal and shovel food into my mouth (Yup, I’m a shoveler). As I started to pay more attention to this daily activity, I noticed I wasn’t giving myself (or my food) the attention, love, and nurturing I deserved. In just a few sittings, I also noticed that I wasn’t tasting my food as I was eating too quickly. I cook with many different spices and foods of all flavors, yet I wasn’t experiencing all this goodness. I had a BIG realization that I was simply not present during the most nourishing time of day and I committed to change this behavior one meal at a time.
When changing behavior, I always start with one small step that will lead to something bigger. Using this method called kaizen, I always feel successful. I repeat the small change at least 80% of the time until it becomes more automated. (Can I tell you how many books I have read recently just by reading 10 minutes a day?). Once this change is automated, I build onto it. With kaizen, presence, and intention, I become more aware of the positive feedback I receive which propels me to continue. With all that, I decided to start with dinner and a timer. I was curious how long or short it took me to eat.
I was horrified. My meal took me about 5 minutes to finish. My initial observations included: holding my utensils while chewing which made it easy to shovel food in my mouth, chewing quickly, swallowing large chunks of food, sitting on the edge of my seat, feeling anxious, and in the end, feeling too full for my comfort. Additionally, I felt a sense of loneliness eating meals by myself. (The internet has been my company, I guess.) I know, that’s a lot to swallow :) but I’m being truthful here.
Over time, I’ve taken many steps forward to be mindful while eating BUT just as important, to be more at ease. Now I recognize when I’m ready to jump up to do something else and use self-talk to remind myself that I am here to eat SLOWLY, chew LONGER and enjoy my food (that I so delightfully cooked for myself). Everything else can wait. I am also more cognizant of resting my utensils on my plate so I am sloooooooooowing the whole eating/chewing/digesting process down, to experience ease AND to get the most nutritional health benefits from my food.
Let’s not forget that I sit for my meals, never standing. Often I sit by a window and in the warmer weather outside, so I spend a lot of time watching the trees move and the animals playing while I am chewing and resting in between bites. Using breath work, I am feeling more settled in my body and my circumstances of eating alone. At times, I listen to quiet, relaxing music but sitting in nature smoothes over the intermittent feelings of loneliness.
What has also been extremely helpful is to continue all of these behaviors while I’m eating with others. Since my habits are more automated, I maintain my focus to chew, chew, chew, and chew some more and put my utensils down to rest between bites. It’s challenging but the more I do it, the easier it’s getting. It’s amazing how fast others eat too but this is my journey!
You know that saying, “You are what you eat?” Well, according to The California College of Ayurveda, the holistic school of health/wellness that originated in India, the new adage is “you are what you digest.” “After all, what good is it to your body if you eat your vegetables and whole grains but you don’t digest them well? No one wants to suffer from indigestion. If you want to be healthy, it’s not just what you eat but how you eat that is important.”LenSaunders.com
Ayurveda and other health organizations believe that you should chew your food at least 30 times to benefit from the nutrients of your food and to keep your digestive tract moving. Try it out and let me know how you did.
So over a year later, through my simple practices, I eat about 99% of my meals distraction-free. I feel present, chew more slowly and thoroughly, place my utensils on my plate (bye-bye shoveling food into my mouth) and prioritize the nourishment of my homemade meals over anything else. Now, I can taste my food and show more gratitude. I recognize when I am almost full and stop eating most of the time. (this is a work in progress) I feel more relaxed and embrace eating meals by myself. My digestive system thanks me.
So get out your timer and do some exploring. Let me know what you find.
In deep nourishing gratitude,