We all have done it – spent hours preparing a meal or made a restaurant reservation months in advance, and then when the meal is before us, fork poised in hand, something in our minds shuts off. Before we know it, the meal is devoured, and though the conversation might have been grand, we can barely remember a single detail about the food, which was the centerpiece for the evening.
It shouldn’t be news to anyone that obesity is on the rise in this country. And even though the dieting industry is soaring, statistics show that fewer than 2 percent of people actually weigh less two years after completing one of the top four diet programs.
Part of the problem is that diet programs focus mainly on portion control, which only impacts our weight at the moment we choose to put food into our bodies. It is this moment that needs our attention. Becoming aware of that moment is mindfulness.
Next time you are eating, try to take your first three bites of the meal mindfully. Tune in to how you arrange the food on your fork. Notice your mouth salivating or the impulse to rush the food to your waiting maw. The most common reason people lose awareness during meals is conversation, and most of us don’t want to give that up. So try to stay aware for the food just for the first three bites. Taste the food, the panoply of sensations – salt, sweet and savory. Notice what you like and dislike about the texture, the crunch, the sounds. Be with the food as you chew it, and as it travels down your throat. Feel it in your stomach. Then pause before your next forkful.
This simple act of bringing awareness to a meal at its inception can have transformative effects on how we eat the whole meal. People begin to realize that they like tasting their food in this way, and many times they will return to the experience again and again. The trickle down effect is that people begin to notice when they are actually getting full, and then stop eating sooner than they would have otherwise. Mindless eaters clean their plates. A mindful eater listens to the body’s clues and makes a choice.
At the dinner table, there is more than just one conversation going on. There is another worthy discourse. Begin to listen. The food just may have something important to tell you.