The Joy of Mindful Eating
The experience of tasting starts long before you put food in your mouth. Let’s take chocolate as an example. If you pay attention, you can notice what emotions are present when you reach for a piece of chocolate or find yourself in the chocolate aisle at the store. What draws you to one piece of chocolate over another? The colors and visuals of the packaging, the percentage of cocoa, the size of the bar? Pay attention to what draws your senses.
Sit down with your chocolate without distractions. Take your time. And be fully present. The joy of eating can’t happen if you’re not present for it. Bring a beginner’s mind to the experience. Imagine that you have never had a piece of chocolate before. And, in fact, you have never had this piece of chocolate.
Before you eat the chocolate, make sure it’s at least at room temperature. Cold chocolate will never give you the total experience of chocolate.
Open up the packaging of the chocolate. What do you notice? Is there an aroma? Is it pleasant? Is the chocolate dull or shiny? Thick or thin? Are there other ingredients besides chocolate in your bar (e.g., nuts, herbs, fruit)? Are there squares or designs in your chocolate?
Listen to the sound as you snap off a piece. Hold the piece in-between your thumb and index finger. Notice how it begins to warm between your fingers.
Bring the chocolate up to your nose and notice when the aroma becomes noticeable. What is the first aroma you become aware of? Is there a secondary aroma present? Take a moment to savor the aroma. Are there memories that arise as you smell the chocolate?
Okay. Now we’re ready. Take a bite of chocolate and close your eyes. Let your attention turn inward—to the sensations in your mouth. Don’t chew the chocolate but let it warm and melt on your tongue. Notice how fast or slow the chocolate melts? Move it around and notice what flavors are registered on different parts of your tongue? Is it creamy, greasy, or waxy? At some point, when there is just a little teeny bit of chocolate left, you can finish by chewing and swallow the rest of the chocolate.
Now, assess the inside of your mouth. What are you still noticing? According to Brad Kintzer, Chief Chocolate Maker of TCHO Chocolate,“ Because of the slow melting properties of cocoa butter and the unparalleled complexity of cocoa, chocolate flavors can linger for 20 minutes or longer.” Just one small piece of chocolate can give you long lasting pleasure.
I have done an exercise similar to this with hundreds of people and it is amazing what people discover. Most of all, people discover when they pay attention to a small piece of chocolate they are more satisfied with the experience than if they had eaten a half a bar in their normal way—not really paying attention. The act of paying attention changes everything.
I have a couple of opportunities coming up that can help you get more out of your eating experiences and to help you get more out of your life. I hope you join me.
1. Eat for Life Classes start next week. This classes are available for people around the world as they are LIVE online. I have classes on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. and Tuesdays and 12:00 p.m. Central Time. Click here for more information and to register.
2. The Joy of Mindful Eating Workshop at alleyCat Yoga Center in Columbia, MO on Saturday, January 26, from 2 – 4:00 p.m. Register here.
Be present and eat and live more fully!
(Adapted from Bread, Wine, and Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi, 2015)