Sensuality of Eating
When is the last time you sat down to a meal and took note of all the sensations the act of eating, and the food itself, brings? Did you notice the way that you salivated when the food was placed in front of you? Or the way that the steam hit your nose and the smell reminded you of a time and place and meal that you had long ago? What about the way the textures of the foods felt in your mouth as you chewed and savored each bite? Oh, and the way you felt when you finished the meal with a smile on your face and a belly and palate so satisfied?
Eating is such a gift that we have as living, breathing beings. When I was deep in my eating disorder, I used to wish that we didn’t have to eat. That we could just keep going like the Energizer Bunny. For those who are dieting, restricting, or just have a bad relationship with food, eating is often more an act of survival than an act of enjoyment. But, friends, I am here to tell you that it can be so delightful to eat! One of things that I love about Intuitive Eating is that it teaches you to love food again. To take joy in not only the nourishment it has to offer, but also the pleasure it brings!
I love a good Chef’s Table binge. Not only do I find it incredibly inspiring, but I also find that it makes me appreciate the way that food captivates me like a fine piece of art. The way that food is procured so precisely, the colors chosen to compliment one another on the plate, the contrasting textures that make the details of each component stand out. It’s so beautiful. I’m often brought to tears!
But it’s not just about the perfectly procured small plates and bites that are displayed on entertainment like Chef’s Table. It’s about the colors that come from the dirt. Sometimes I cut into a purple carrot or a pomegranate and my breath is taken from me. The vibrancy of foods that come from the soil can stop you in your tracks if you give your attention to it. Next time you pick up a fruit or vegetable, look at it closely and notice all the colors it reflects. That came from the dirt!
In one of my psychology classes in undergrad I had to rack up some odd number of hours in the lab being a part of different studies the university was conducting. My favorite one was this study where the researchers were trying to find connections between different scents and memories. There were 50+ scents I had to smell and then tell the psychologist what memory that particular scent made me think of or where it swept me off to in my mind’s eye. Scent is a powerful sense that can bring us directly back to a memory lost in time.
Have you ever walked into a bakery and been brought back to a childhood memory of delighting in the best cupcake you ever had? Or maybe you walk into a coffee shop and you immediately picture your dad sitting at the kitchen table, robe on, newspaper in hand, sipping on the same roast on a Saturday morning. The scent of our food not only brings memories back to us, it establishes new memories. It also stimulates our salivary glands which helps our digestive enzymes and “juices” going! (This is why cooking food at home is often more digestible for folks than eating out – as you’re cooking, your body is actually preparing itself to dig in and digest the goods!)
Touch / Texture.
There are so many textures, and preferences for textures, when it comes to food. Some people love, and even crave, crunchy foods. Others may enjoy softer foods. Some people like the chewiness of calamari or steak, and others may have an aversion to said foods. The beautiful thing about giving attention to the texture of foods is that you have to tap into how you enjoy the food. Does the texture of the food on your plate bring you satisfaction? If not, ask yourself what else might be more satisfying. The thing with Intuitive Eating is that you don’t have to eat something if you don’t like it! But there is much pleasure and satisfaction to be found in the texture of the foods you enjoy.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but how often do you scarf down a meal and hardly remember what the food actually tasted like? Maybe you were distracted. Maybe you don’t even remember what it was you just ate. Sometimes food is simply functional and you may not have time to fully enjoy every last bite. That’s okay. What matters is that you try to take the time to slow down and truly taste your food most of the time. This one is really big for folks who have deprived themselves with diets, restricted because their eating disorder told them to, or have listened to the Food Police for so long they forgot what they even like. Yes, it’s possible to forget what flavors you enjoy! I know I did.
For so many people, food has become one more thing to check off the to-do list. Society has created “fast” food because it recognized that we, as a culture, stopped taking time out of our days to gather, prepare, and eat food like we used to. We zip through our days without appreciating the foods we inhale between meetings, drop-offs and pick-ups, and errands. Maybe this default is why so many are dissatisfied with their health status. Maybe we have lost sight of the joy and pleasure that food once brought us and haven’t been truly satisfied by food in a long, long time. Next time you sit down to eat, let yourself fully take in the spread before you. See it. Smell it. Roll the food around in your mouth and TASTE it. When you pay attention to your likes and dislikes, you are much more likely to enjoy your food, feel good about your food choices, and experience health.