Do you ever read something and feel as the words process through your brain that your life is about to change? Maybe you received a letter of acceptance from your first-choice college or it is an email offering you an amazing job. It could be a book that touches your soul or dare I say it might be a blog from a middle-aged housewife living in Northwest Indiana.
The other day I read an article posted from Bon Appétitonline about “mindful eating.” (You can read the whole article here.) If you don’t know a lot about mindful eating, you are not alone. After I read that article, I started researching like crazy. It seems like there isn’t one solid definition that envelops the whole concept.
Buddhists will know that mindfulness is experiencing life as it happens in the moment and being present. From these episodes, we should gain self-awareness, wisdom and enlightenment. (If I have any Buddhist readers, I hope this was a good summary.)
My conclusion from that was that mindful eating is the appreciation, feelings and joy that we can receive from food if we would take a moment or two as we are eating to think about our meal. Some people believe if you mindfully eat it can help your weight, digestion and overall health.
As a person with Crohn’s Disease, mindful eating has been something that has been part of my life. With how my disease has progressed over the past 40 years, EVERY meal means pain. If I would have concentrated on that fact, I probably wouldn’t have ever eaten another meal in my life.
Instead my admiration of food starts when I start to prepare it. Am I using good ingredients and am I respecting where they came from? I’m conscientious of where my food comes from and what it took to get it to my kitchen.
As I cook, I think about who may have written the recipe or the origin of the cooking method. I inhale the different scents as each element reacts with one another.
When I put my food on my plate, I do it with care. Every plate should look neat because each dish tells a story. As I dip my fork (or in my case most nights spork) into my dish, I close my eyes and am grateful for that moment. I’m not thanking anyone or anything….it isn’t a religious moment…it is a moment where I am feeling grateful for life and the ability to eat solid foods.
But what I have not taken into “mind,” in the past is invoking all my senses to be one with my meal. The article mentioned that we should think about what we are seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling. I would add feeling too because food texture is an adventure in itself.
I also am guilty of doing other things while I eat. We like to watch Jeopardy with dinner and I am usually watching something retro when I eat my lunch. My morning coffee is usually me on the computer. I am not present in my meals, I am everywhere.
Since reading the BA article, I am taking a breath before I eat. There is an awareness of each sense that awakens with each bite. (I don’t count my chews as the article suggests but I do make each bite count!) It has made me look at the times I eat as a time for reflection and not just a “feeding.”
The feelings, thoughts and emotions that are coming out when I eat are pretty amazing. I feel like a door has been opened in my mind and behind that door is a billion others doors waiting to be explored.
I know I am skimming the surface on the topic of mindful eating and I might be completely wrong on my early analysis of what it is meant to be in my life. I am reading a couple books I requested at the library. My goal is to continue to grasp mindfulness as it relates to every morsel* that passes my lips.
*One of the first meals I ate after starting to read about mindful eating was a baked potato. Such a simple thing that we all eat but don’t think twice about it…until now. I took my potato and washed the remnants of the dirt that were left on it. I gingerly dried and then drizzled olive oil over its brown skin. I used my hands to feel the roughness on the skin and enjoyed the silkiness the oil residue that was left on my skin. I pierced the potato with a fork and sprinkled it with a coarse sea salt that I crumbled with my fingers.
With my oven preheated, I placed the potato on a rack and waited for my timer to ring and beckon me to my meal. I removed the potato from the oven and let my hands hover above it to feel the warmth as it permeated my skin. The potato got a soft thump on the counter and split open naturally from the pressure.
As the steam rose above it, I could smell the Earth. I decorated my potato with freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese and admired how the yellow looked like the sun against the pale flesh of the potato. A couple of pieces of freshly cooked bacon were tucked in to the cheese as my mouth started to water at the thought of what my taste buds were about to endure.
My final step was to mix a little dry ranch dressing, chives and sour cream and dollop it on top of my creation. The herbs and spices scented the air as it melted onto the hot flesh.
I felt emotions overcome me as I took my first bite. I closed my eyes and felt the heat of the potato in my mouth. There were textures galore as the crispy bacon, rugged potato skin and creamy herb sauce coated my entire mouth. I was nothing else that mattered around me but this potato…..s
It makes you think…doesn’t it?