Most people are constantly on the go and multi-tasking throughout the day. One of the ways we think we are being smarter is multi-tasking our way through meals. Does this sound like you…grab a granola bar and eat it on the way to work; pick up lunch or take your own and eat it at your desk while checking and responding to emails; pick up dinner or microwave a meal and sit in front of the TV to ‘relax’ and eat. That was basically how I ate all of my meals when I worked as a corporate executive for many years. In my haste to be all things to all people, I felt the constant need to combine any form of eating with another activity and never gave it any thought. One day when I was traveling to Seoul, South Korea for work, I decided to walk down the street from my hotel and grab a bite to eat for dinner. I had forgotten to bring my cell phone and I was left with nothing to do as I ate my meal. How wrong I was!! After picking a corner table near the window and ordering my food, I began to people watch and take in all of the sounds and visuals around me. I could smell the aromas from various dishes as they were served to nearby tables. There were tables full of laughter and then also tables full of silence as people madly studied their cell phones or typed messages. Then I noticed all of the people passing by on the street and for the first time I realized how relaxed I felt while simply observing my surroundings. It was as if I was in the eye of a storm and I felt a real sense of peace. And then my food arrived. It was a traditional meal known as Bimimbap (BEE-beem-bap) and consists of steamed rice and on top sits a variety of steamed vegetables such as baby corn, mushrooms, spinach, bean sprouts and egg. It is seasoned with a soy, ginger, sesame oil marinade and is absolutely delicious. When this bowl of food was presented to me, I first smelled the dish and could feel my inner self starting to purr with excitement. (Yes, I said purr!) Then I took my first bite and simply held the bite in my mouth to take in all of the flavors. Then I began chewing and continued to notice the slight change in flavors as my saliva began to break down the food. It was a meal like no other and I enjoyed it thoroughly even though I probably only consumed about half of the bowl. All of my senses were on high alert and it was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. Now you may wonder why I am going into so much detail about this particular meal. This is one great example of mindful eating. I was completely aware of the entire dining experience and all of my senses were engaged making it a most enjoyable experience.
Fast forward several years later and I am now a wellness coach guiding women on how to eat, move & breathe healthier. Given how busy we all are and the many responsibilities we have to our careers, family and community, it’s no wonder we tend to run ourselves into the ground. One of my recommendations to clients is to reserve one meal a day for ourselves. This goes back to my philosophy of taking care of YOU first so why not enjoy one meal and completely indulge in the act of eating. In Don Gerrard’s book, One Bowl, he describes how he picks out his favorite bowl and eats all of his meals out of this bowl. He has a quiet place in his house that is reserved for his meals and this becomes an almost meditative experience because he experiences every bite and how his body communicates with him by telling him when he is full. In my house, we use small plates. It has become a common practice that I eat my meals at home in silence either sitting at the dining room table or even sitting outside on our back deck enjoying this beautiful fall weather. Not only do I pay attention to what I’m eating but I also observe how I eat: the way I sometimes blend foods together or when I choose to save a certain side for last because it’s my favorite; even the pauses that I take to have a drink of water and assess whether I feel the need to clean my plate. It’s amazing how many times my body will quietly say ‘I’m full’ and I will simply take my plate to the kitchen to be cleaned. (Or soaked if you’re like my husband!) If this sounds way too intimidating (or weird) for you then here are a few suggestions you can try to begin mindfully eating and enjoying your food.
Turn Off All Technology
If you’re at the office, simply take your meal outside or to the office kitchen. Outside lunches are a great way to soak up some Vitamin D which helps maintain heart action and nervous system function. Plus, it’s a nice diversion from the fluorescent glow of office lights. Having no computers, phones or TVs around ensures that you are paying complete attention to your food.
No More Car Eating
If you’re eating 2 or meals in your car each day, subtract one meal. If you’re a morning person, consider waking up 5-10 minutes earlier so that you can eat your breakfast in a quiet place before the hustle of the day begins and/or the rest of your house is awake. This is a great opportunity for you to be able to enjoy a few relaxing minutes and set a mindful start to your entire day. I’ve had quite a few people tell me this is their favorite meal of the day because it sets the tone for their whole day.
Find One Relaxing Spot for Your Meal
My husband travels for work so many of my meals are solo and that means I can eat pretty much anywhere I choose. That’s why I like to go outside when I can because there is something so relaxing about eating outdoors. When we eat together as a family, I will set the table and this becomes a meal where we are able to connect with each other and enjoy the food and the whole experience. We leave work and other stressful topics at the door so that we can at least enjoy this time with each other. You can do this with your kids as well and even choose a topic for dinner which can lead to some very creative and entertaining discussions.
Dine Out Solo
I did this a lot when I traveled for work and as I described earlier, it became one of my most cherished events. This may be hard for some people especially if you are constantly surrounded by people and technology but trust me, it is well worth the uncomfortable feeling when you completely immerse yourself in the overall dining experience.
Mindful eating is really simply being present during your meals so that you can truly savor each bite and the complete meal. This goes back to making YOU the number one priority and what better way to do that than to set a date with yourself every day for at least one meal. You’ll be so happy you did!!