Imagine this: You are sitting down to eat in front of a beautiful plate of something you love. You are hungry and ready to inhale this glorious meal of something delicious.
You pick up your knife and fork and carve a succulent little morsel of food. You take a bite. You put your knife and fork down. You take time to chew and swallow the food. Take a sip of water.
Then you pick up your knife and fork again. Cut another piece. Take a bite. Put the knife and fork down. Chew and swallow. Take a sip of water.
Did you imagine? How did that make you feel? I’m going to guess that if you don’t normally eat slowly, this description of eating slowly drove you up the wall! If so, know that you are not alone!
When learning to eat slowly, many people find that it can feel uncomfortable and disconcerting. The “OMG, how long does it take to eat your food?!” and ” Hurry up or you will never finish your meal!”, and “Hurry up and finish, we ain’t got all day!” thoughts start coming out of the woodwork and causing discomfort.
Eating Slowly – New Habit
This week we started working on developing the habit of eating slowly. Eating slowly and allowing ourselves not to be perfect at it.
First meal I tried this at I felt the pressure to do it perfectly. I mean why do it at all if you are not going to do it right? Right? Wrong. I need to allow myself to take the time to make this change permanent. I have time. At least two weeks. The whole year, if need be. This is the single most important habit that can be built, the foundation. Everything else will build on this habit, so I need to get it right. Which is not the same as “right away”.
A lot of thoughts came up while I was focusing on eating slowly.
- If I eat slowly and everyone else eats fast, there will be less food left for me.
- I am going to miss out on food.
- I will fill up sooner and won’t have room for seconds. I like seconds.
- I like tasting my food. I don’t like depriving myself of that.
We were having the most delicious BBQ ribs ever for dinner that day, can you blame me?? I ended up eating seconds anyway. Even though I was already full. I just ate them s-l-o-w-l-y. One habit at a time, remember? I like this already.
The following few days, I kept up the practice and it started getting a little easier. I did feel other pressures, for example pressure to make each meal perfect. Not only eat it slowly, but also make it a healthy meal. I had to remind myself to trust the process and trust the program. Work on ONE habit at a time. Currently it’s eating slowly. So once I allowed myself to not make my breakfast perfect, I let myself have a slice of the most delicious Peach and Blueberry pie that I made last night. And I ate it slowly.
“Hurry up and clean your plate!”
As the week went on, more thoughts bubbled up to the surface as I sat there with my meal, focused squarely on it and willing myself to go slower. “Come on hurry up, there’s so many things that need to be done! The kids are waiting to do something!” And my personal favourite: “If you eat slowly, you won’t finish all your food and won’t clean your plate!”. Ahhhaha… ok.. I got it. I see you!
That “clean your plate” pressure that’s been with me since I was a child. My mom used so many different strategies to help me clean my plate, When I was near the end of my meal and didn’t want to eat anymore, my mom would tell me that all the strength is left at the bottom of the bowl and I didn’t want to leave that behind, did I? Didn’t I want to be strong? All the best and tastiest bites were left at the bottom of the bowl, I wouldn’t want to miss out, right?
Let me tell you, these memories are very powerful and now they have morphed into my own strategies. For example: I make sure I save the best bite for last, that will be the added incentive to eat all the other foods I don’t really like. I tell myself, that there’s only a little bit left, I can find room for that. And I invariably do. You see how that works.
I’m sure we will have a habit to stop eating when we are full and not clean our plate on this program. I am also sure that all these thoughts will come up again. However, having them come up now, when I am practicing eating slowly is eye opening and lays the groundwork for the rest of the course.
What do eating slowly and quitting smoking have in common?
So far I feel that learning to eat intuitively is like quitting smoking. When quitting smoking it wasn’t just one habit I needed to break – smoking. No, it was all the little habits that came with it. I had to stop smoking when I was bored, smoking when I was waiting for a bus, smoking when waking up, smoking with a coffee, cigarette with a glass of wine, cigarette when I was upset, cigarette when there was a break… you get the idea. I haven’t even listed them all. It’s like quitting smoking a hundred times, not just once.
Same with eating. You have to identify all the million little eating habits you have accumulated since you were a kid and change them one at a time.
For me, eating slowly is just but one. Once I started focusing on it, several others came up which I will need to address as well. They are not on the official list of the habits, but if I’m to be successful in this program, I will need to do all this extra work as well.
Snacking while cooking. This is my nemesis. As soon as I’m in the kitchen and food appears, I start picking at it. Monitoring my thoughts during this process I see excitement, curiosity and indulgence. Ooh..I’m so hungry and that looks so good, I wonder what it tastes like! I taste it, it’s delicious. Ooh, that was so delicious, I want more. Now! I have some more. And then some more. And then another thing. By the time the meal is ready, I’m no longer hungry. And then I sit down to eat the meal.
Snacking after a nap. Not to be confused with breakfast. I don’t have such a huge drive to go eat breakfast. But when I wake up from a nap, no matter what time of day or night I happened to be sleeping, I beeline it to the fridge. To eat SOMETHING. Usually something sweet. I’m not sure where that one came from. I’ll keep my eye on it. Naps are not something I do daily, so it’s not a huge impact on my eating, just something I’ve noticed.
Leaving the best bites for last. This one has got to go! I want to eat what I enjoy the most – first. Then if there’s other stuff left, I’ll be more inclined to leave it on the plate and not feel deprived of experiencing the flavours. And if that means eating my dessert first or at least tasting it, so be it!
All in all I am pleased how this week has gone and all the awareness that I have gained as a result of implementing this one little change. Next week we are still focusing on the same habit “Eating Slowly” and I personally will focus on completing my workouts. I have not been completing all the workouts previously, something always gets in the way. However, I was able to get three workouts in this past week and some Active Recovery activities in the form of riding my bike with the kids.
I invite you to examine the way you eat your meals and the way others around you eat theirs. Do you eat quickly? Do you take big bites or small ones? Are you distracted? How do you think eating slowly could benefit you? Would it be something you’d be willing to try? I encourage all of you to give it a try even for one or two meals and see how it feels. What emotions and thoughts come up? Pay attention to them and take a mental note. Comment below about your experience!