How to Practice Mindful Eating

Before one of my morning classes this week, the students were talking about sterling silver silverware (I know, an unusual topic at a yoga studio :) ). One of them shared that she started collecting silverware when she turned 50. Another said that her grandmother's friends gave her silver place settings as wedding gifts. I thought this was all really charming, since real silverware seems like such a novel luxury these days.

I told the ladies that while I don't have sterling silverware, I do have nice silverware and china, too, that I received as wedding gifts. It's packed up at the top of my kitchen cabinets and it never gets used. The ladies told me firmly that I need to get it out and USE IT!

At first I thought that was a little bit silly - certainly my 2 and 4 year old don't care about eating on good china - but then my practice of svadhyaya (self-study) kicked in and I started to think about it a little bit deeper, and then the concept of yogic eating came to mind.

People who adhere to yogic eating make an effort to eat mindfully. The idea is that the more you are able to appreciate your food, the more it nourishes your body and soul. People who eat mindfully take time to appreciate:

  • the visual aspect of the food, how it is plated
  • the smell of the food
  • the taste, temperature, and texture of the food

If you want to get really deep into the practice, you might even stop to appreciate the source of the foods on your plate:

  • the farmer who grew the vegetables
  • the animals who provided the meats
  • the earth for providing the growing medium
  • the drivers who transported the food
  • the cooks who prepared the food

In our busy modern lives, does anyone really take the time to appreciate their food to this degree? Probably few do, but it is a very nice practice to follow, even if you do it just once in a while.

So I have rededicated myself to mindful eating and I have taken my students' advice and started to use my good silverware and china. I decided to try a little experiment yesterday. I prepared a breakfast of toast and green juice and served it on two different plates. I wanted to see if I felt any different eating off each of the plates.

Here are my findings...

My casual plate and mason jar felt utilitarian ("everyone's gotta eat!"). It was nice to sit down at the dining table, use a place mat, and spend a few minutes enjoying my food. It was certainly an improvement over inhaling my food while I work at the computer.

The real surprise came when I started to eat the toast on the china plate, which I had buttered with a knife from my good silverware, and my green juice in a big wine glass. Seeing the beautiful place setting, these words immediately popped into my head: "Someone cares about me." And then I realized that it was I who cares about me. I cared enough about myself to put a little extra effort into plating my simple breakfast.

It brought to mind eating in a nice hotel where the staff uses good tableware to create an experience for the diner. It's so easy to do that at home, and it doesn't cost a thing! And then I thought about the extra time and effort needed to handwash this china, and I turned the plate over to find out it's DISHWASHER SAFE!

The other thing I noticed is that I appreciated my juice more in the wine glass because I enjoyed the "nose" of the juice. You know how wine people swirl the wine around the wine glass and smell the wine before drinking it? I didn't do those things with my juice, but I did notice that the shape of the glass caused me to notice and enjoy the earthy, green scent of the freshly prepared vegetable juice.

I encourage you to try this for yourself. Get your good plates and good silverware out from wherever they're stored and plan a meal at home. It can be as simple as buttered toast for breakfast, or it can be a nice dinner.

Take care in preparing your meal, spend a minute to visually observe your plated food, take in the aroma, and then begin to eat. Minimize distractions during your meal so you can really focus on your nourishment.

And then let me know how it went. Did you notice that you enjoyed your food more, or was it about the same as usual? Please post your observations in the Comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

All my best, Zelinda