Mindful Eating

(c) Smith's China

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When I came up with my theme for this year, the first thing I wanted to work on was my eating. I didn’t want to make a resolution to eat better, to eat more fruits and vegetables, less cake and cookies or cut out meat. Doing that wouldn’t be authentic because in all honesty, I don’t want to cut anything out of my diet. I eat what I eat for a reason.

So I thought about what it is that actually did want to achieve. I thought about what it is that I wanted to gain from making this change. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to work on these things:

The Why. Am I hungry? Am I bored? Am I afraid that when I get hungry food won’t be available? What is the driving desire behind the utensil-to-mouth ritual

Awareness. I eat a lot of my meals doing something else or to pass time. When I realized that, I had to wonder if I really love food as much as I claim or if I like the action of eating. I also tend to eat pretty fast. By the time I’ve finished eating, I don’t remember savoring the textures and flavors of what I’ve eaten. And considering how much time I put into cooking, I feel like I do myself a disservice not truly enjoying the reward behind all the hard work.

Taste Experience. This is kind of in line with awareness. The Hero can tell me he tastes a distinct spice or flavor. He has preferences for flavor and pallet appeal and has to really get past one or both of those to try a new dish I create, no matter how delicious they are. I on the other hand frequently miss the subtle flavors he’s talking about and instantly regret not taking time to savor food.

Plate Control. Ahh… the twofold issue. I pride myself on eating the average person under the table. Memories of buffet competitions with my brother and older cousins (probably only in my head and I NEVER won), there was something to prove. Although I never beat them, I usually put the average woman to shame. My dates never consisted of a dinner salad. If we’re not eating three courses, I’m not going out with you again. Period. The other plate issue is eating everything on it, no matter what my stomach says. Growing up the rule was “if it’s on the plate, you will eat it”. The simple solution is to make a smaller plate, right? Wrong. The cute little salad plate just becomes a mountain of food contained by my hands.

Ambiance. Again, intertwined with another issue of awareness. Most of our meals are in front of a TV. I literally tune out to food when I’m eating and doing something else. I can’t remember the last time I ate without doing anything else. I wonder if the atmosphere of my meals would change if I created an environment where eating was the only thing going on besides general conversation.

Tempo. I don’t know why I’ve never entered an eating contest. Seriously. I vaguely remember finishing dinner in seven minutes. And it wasn’t soup either. I literally ate a plate of food in seven minutes. That just doesn’t seem right. I’m sure this goes back to being afraid that food won’t be there if I want more and I can trace that back to fried chicken. Growing up, I only ate the leg and in order to get seconds, we had to eat what we had first. I remember feeling like if I didn’t hurry up someone would get that second leg and I’d be screwed. That habit just stuck with me. Time to change it up.

I’m going to work at this in a way I won’t fail. Through guidance from an ebook on Zen Habits, I’m starting with one meal, dinner, and applying all of the points above to rethinking how I approach that meal for one week. If all goes well, I’ll add lunch and if not, I’ll keep focusing on dinner. I’m going to keep track of my progress in my 2013 Life book (come back Monday to read all about that). The point is to make this a life change, not to meet a time-specific goal. Once I master this, I believe all of my other health-related goals will fall into place.

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