Happy Monday, and welcome to the first weekly Zense message of the month (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, skim through the March newsletter here!)
Today’s topic – your nostrils and taste buds, the amazing duo responsible for elevating your dinner from a chore to a party in your mouth. On any given day, you can chose to consume food to suppress hunger, or actively participate in the incredibly fulfilling and delightful experience that is eating. Unfortunately, our busy schedules rarely allow us the time to do the latter, and more often than not we find ourselves scarfing down a cold sandwich at our desks while finishing up a presentation or mindlessly chowing down (on something that looks like food) while driving to our next activity. With so much to do, who has time to actually experience eating?
I’m willing to bet the most overlooked meal is lunch, as it’s right smack in the middle of our busiest time of day. But you know what? There are reasons, really good reasons, to start changing your perspective on the often neglected lunch hour from a luxury you can’t afford to the mid-day productivity boost you can’t afford to miss. Here are a few to whet your appetite:
1. Maintain healthy weight. During the past 20 years, studies have found that mindful eating can help you to 1) reduce overeating and binge eating, 2) lose weight and reduce your body mass index (BMI), 3) cope with chronic eating problems such as anorexia and bulimia, and 4) improve the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. Taking time for lunch allows you to make healthier food choices, consciously control portions, and actually activate your taste buds. Savoring your meal will increase your overall satisfaction and reduce sugary cravings later in the afternoon. Mindless eating means extra calories, less energy, and a sprinkling of food guilt….boooo.
2. Improve performance. The adult attention span is only about 45 minutes long, and our bodies were not made to sit for hours at a time without a stretch. When we don’t give our body what it needs, it starts working against us and we become less efficient, personable, and productive as a result. Intentionally savoring a meal is one of the easiest ways to clear your head and recharge. Sacrificing lunch = sacrificing performance.
3. Encourage mindfulness in other areas of your life. Driving all of your attention to the flavors and textures of the food you are consuming is a great way to connect back to the present moment. Over time, this practice of engaging fully with what you are doing can start rubbing off on other activities. A mindful life is a richer life, allowing us to experience things in full color instead of a blur as we rush on by.
Ok, you’re sold…but how does one practice mindful eating? Just invite your nose and tongue to the party, and put your brain on time-out.
Before you put something in your mouth, take in the aromas of your meal and try to register all of the spices and flavors that are mixed in there. Take one bite at a time and fully finish before taking the next bite (as in don’t even load up your fork until you’re really done). As you eat, connect with the texture of your food, and again, register the rich flavors that your taste buds are detecting. Take full breaths in through the nose as you chew, enhancing the taste of your food. Maybe close your eyes and engage fully with your bite, as if it were the last bite you might ever take. And every once in a while, stop and consider if you are full or not, listening to what your body is really telling you.
I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s actually a life-changing practice worth trying. It may take some time, but eventually you’ll be able to do this without anyone else knowing that you’re having a religious experience with your food while they mindlessly chatter away.
Your challenge is to try this out at least once this week. Let me know how it goes!