By ELISSA DEN HOED
How often do you think about what you’re eating? If you’ve seen the movie Ratatouille you’ll remember the advice Remy the rat gave to his brother Emile on a piece of fine cheese: “Don’t just hork it down!”
Last Sunday I attended the International TEA (To End Abuse) Festival, and the Chinese woman who led a tea-pouring ceremony taught me how to drink tea in a way I’d never thought of before. After giving everyone a cup of tea, she said, “Close your eyes” and told us to picture where the tea had come from. I’m not much of an expert on tea, and I don’t really know where it comes from, but I did close my eyes and I pictured a misty mountain and an orchard of trees somewhere in China as I drank the delicately-flavoured tea. She invited us to have a “conversation” with the tea and insisted, “It will speak to you.” Through the imagery, the tea did speak to me, but I was too dumbfounded to say anything back.
The whole experience reminded me of a course in wellness I took two years ago. My instructor, Bob Bamford, said, as an example of mindful eating, when you open a bag of chips, the first chip always tastes the best, because you are fully aware of it. You start grabbing handful after handful, and while you might taste it, are you really enjoying the chips? Are you even really that hungry? This is especially true if you are distracted, which you usually are when you’re watching TV. Before you know it you’ve eaten the whole bag and don’t have any left for later.
Sometimes I am eating lunch while reading the paper, often concentrating way more on the paper than on the food, and before I know it, I’m thinking, “Where’d my lunch go?”
I’ve read that part of the reason we waste so much food (40 per cent of all food produced) is we don’t appreciate it enough. Say you grow a head of lettuce and it goes bad before someone’s had the chance to eat it. That would probably seem like a waste to you. But if you buy a head of lettuce from the store, having no knowledge of where it came from, watching it grow out in the field, or the amount of time and energy needed to make it grow, it likely won’t bother you as much if it wilts before you can eat it.
Mindful eating might even cause you to eat healthier: if you look closely enough at a McDonalds meal, you might lose your appetite. I’ve even heard some people go so far as to smell, touch and listen to their food before consuming it. If you’re concerned about appearances, especially if you’re on a dinner date, you don’t have to go this far. Just pause and think about what you’re about to eat. What will your food say to you?