The one thing that has made the biggest difference in both my body and my lifestyle is savoring my food. Paying attention while I eat leaves me satisfied after every meal, even with smaller portions on my plate.
Imagine a moist dark-as-night piece of chocolate cake is placed in front of you. Most people take one bite, emit some sort of grunt of delight, and then shovel the rest of the cake down their gullet in less time than it takes for a toddler to discover how to unroll toilet paper. When they finish the last two bites, slowing down at last because they see the end is nigh, they sigh and wish for more because “that was so good!” This is how I used to eat cake. And lasagna, and fries, and ice cream, and cereal, and steak and everything.
Next time you have cake, try this instead: savor every bite. That’s right, EVERY bite. Take a bite, emit grunt, take a bite, make mm-mm-mmm! sound, take a bite, paint the inside of your mouth chocolate with your tongue, and so on. Pay attention to the texture, the flavor, the contrast of cake and icing. I guarantee that by the time you’ve finished your piece of cake, you will not want a second piece. Why? You’re bored! Seriously. Five or ten minutes of thinking only about cake is way more time than you need to cover all the bases.
The definition of savor is to “taste (good food or drink) and enjoy it completely.” Food as entertainment; what an interesting thought!
When I savor my food, I find myself feeling grateful for my abundance and for my taste buds. If you look at the anatomy of the human mouth, we were created to enjoy eating. Carnivore teeth can bite and swallow, but not chew. Herbivore teeth can chew, but really, how many taste buds would you want if you were chewing lunch for the fourth time? Don’t get me started on jellyfish; their mouth is also their anus, so you know they thank God that they don’t have taste buds. (And I thank God that I’m not a jellyfish!) The point is, God created food to have flavor and our mouths to detect those flavors. Just as I realize how blessed I am with my family when I pause and think about it, I am more thankful for my food when I pause and think about it. (If I’m inaccurate with the biology lesson, forgive me; I’m still convinced that humans have the best deal meal-wise.)
Paying attention while you eat is harder than it sounds. I never used to sit down to eat without something to do: talk with someone, read something, watch TV. It still feels weird to sit at an empty table and focus on my food, but I enjoy what I eat so much more now.
About a year ago my mom said something that sounded crazy to me at first. She said, “I’m not going to eat Hershey’s chocolate anymore.” But Mom, that reduces your chocolate options by, like, 90%! What kind of insanity is this?!
She loves Harry and David’s dark chocolate truffles and she has good reason to: they’re awesome. They’re so awesome, in fact, that Mom decided not to waste her time, money, or calories on sub-par chocolate. She became a chocolate snob. And she should be applauded!
We need to learn not only to enjoy our food while we eat it so that we don’t wish for more when it’s gone, but we also need to learn to stop eating foods that are not worthy of our time, money, and calories. At church potlucks and family dinners, I used to finish anything I put on my plate, whether it was fabulous, fairly good, or future compost. Now I try many things, but only finish what tastes fabulous, especially when it comes to desserts. If I’m only supposed to consume X number of calories per day, I’m not going to waste them on mediocre food. Does that make me a snob? Yes it does. But I’d rather be a food snob than eat like a garbage disposal as I used to.
There’s one exception to savoring your food, of course: vegetables! Feel free to shovel your veggies in like you’re stoking the engine of an express train. Don’t get me wrong, vegetables can be fabulous (if yours aren’t, try adding garlic) and they should be savored. But if you don’t particularly like veggies and you’re only eating them because they’re good for you, then don’t savor them.
You know how sometimes you just want to plant yourself in front of the TV and stuff your face? You’re not hungry, particularly, but you want that repetitive plate-to-face action happening? Choose a veggie. It’s mindless eating, so do it with a food that won’t hamper your goal when consumed in large quantities.
“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15