When my mom joined Weight Watchers, I remember her flaunting the “new rule” she learned: to put your fork down between every bite. This way, you take more time between bites and will perhaps get fuller faster. Of course, I pounced on this nugget of wisdom. However, it didn’t even take two full meals before I began to neglect my new diet mantra.
Jeff Gordinier addresses this concept of stopping between bites in his article “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought,” in the New York Times this week. As its name implies, stopping between mouthfuls of food is more than just a diet trick, as my mother had taught me to believe; it is a form of meditation. The act of putting down your utensils to focus on the taste, texture, temperature (wow that’s a lot of t’s), and consistency of a food, and truly relishing each bite, will make you appreciate what you have on your plate so much more.
While it seems like it might be easy to say, “Hey, I eat lunch by myself every day—I just won’t text this time,” it is even easier to get bored and forget the purpose of what you are doing. The fact is that food is so accessible to many of us, and we are often too busy to think about something as mundane, primal, and ordinary as eating. However, the truth is that the consumption of food is what sustains our bodies and enables us to go from one meal to the next. Eating is such a glorious occasion, and most of us are passive for the whole process!
Though Gordinier refers mostly to Buddhist teachings, I remember learning about mindful eating in a Kabbalah class I took. The act of slowing down when you eat and focusing just on your food goes along with the Jewish principle to tame your desires and enjoy simple pleasures. Appreciating the food that God provided you with is more than just making a blessing on your food (not that this isn’t incredible, as it is). It is about thinking where the food came from, what work went into producing it, why you are thankful for it, and just how wonderful the food tastes. How does it make you feel? What sensations do you derive from your repast?
Many people have the custom of having aSeder on Tu B’shvat—a ritual construct that enables its participants to feel connected to the nature of the holiday, which is to celebrate and appreciate trees, and fruits, vegetables, and nuts along with them. I have a friend who did meditations similar to those outlined in God in Your Body, a book by Jay Michaelson. Thinking about her food in connection with her soul awakened a spiritual force in her that she thought she had lost. But Tu B’shvat and mindful eating helped her find it.
I highly recommend Gordinier’s entire article. It is well-written, enlightening, and inspiring, and artfully depicts how constructive mindful eating can be for an individual. Although consuming less food will likely be an effect of doing this exercise, he explains that even having a few mindful sips of tea (if you don’t have a half hour for a mindful meal) can do wonders for your appreciation. As he eloquently states, this “could be the remedy for a fast-paced Paula Deen Nation in which an endless parade of new diets never seems to slow a stampede toward obesity.”