“I am not sure what I actually like to eat”. This broke my heart and simultaneously pissed me off. It was a statement that I was told recently by a client and one that I believe could resonate with so many others. One might wonder how a person who is in their 20’s does not know what foods they actually enjoy to eat. For me, it boils right down to diet culture, the rules, the expectations, the healthism. How are we ever to know the foods that we actually like if we only ever eat the foods that we are told to eat by society or, even more importantly, our families. This is something that I have been working on with clients and something I think we need to start to be more observant of in our daily lives.
Part of mindful eating is to eat with curiosity and without judgement. Judgement can cloud how a food is perceived both good and bad. A person may think that they need to love- lets say kale since is it popular right now- because of its health halo. However what if you don’t love kale…what if you don’t even like kale?? Do you still need to eat kale? Well, actually, no. You actually do not need to eat any food that you truly do not like but how do you know what you do and do not like? What if finding that out totally scares you? It can be scary to sit down and really taste a food. When I say really taste a food I mean the whole process of paying attention to the smells, the textures, the colours, the feel in your mouth and the pleasures (or lack thereof) that a food can bring. This means also being aware of the thoughts that pop in your head when you are eating this food. This is a lot, to say the least. And I would suggest you do this all without scrolling through twitter or watching She-Ra (I am kinda into the new She-Ra remake right now and watching with the kiddos) Which means you are with these thoughts and feelings and tastes….and trying to decide whether or not you will want to eat this again. You might be rolling your eyes at me (well your screen) thinking “of course I know what I like…and I do not need to be alone with my food to see”. If you think that, aren’t you the tiniest bit curious as to if you really like something?? Or if the taste changes when you check in? I recently did a mindful eating exercise in one of my classes. In class we did “the raisin” exercise- except I use raisins or chocolates or your own food of choice- to see what it is like to be mindful while eating. I then asked the students to go home and try on their own, with a meal or snack, and to write about it. The responses were amazing and wide ranging. Some stated that they never noticed a certain texture in a food, some stated that they ate the same breakfast every day for the last year and it never tasted way it did that day. One even wrote “I am kind of annoyed that you made me do this…I thought I loved (food) and I DON’T. I couldn’t get past the second piece! Now I need to do this to everything!!” Which made me smile because I am curious as to what they discover they actually like. Not surprisingly almost everyone wrote about being uncomfortable trying this activity. Whether is was shutting down all the screens, or being present with their food, this activity was challenging however almost everyone wrote that they were planning on incorporating more mindful meals into their weeks.
Mindfulness can bring us back to discovering what foods we like or dislike. It can help us reframe the internal dialogue we have around foods. It can help us decide if we really do need to buy kale in our groceries (sorry kale..I prefer you cooked with garlic…raw you are a bit much for me). Do you know what you like to eat? Are you sure? Maybe you could try to discover what you like. Without diet culture telling you that a particular food is good or bad. Without the inner dialogue of “shoulding” all over yourself. Take an eating opportunity, shut off your phone, computer, tablet, tv (did I miss something??), sit in chair, ground your feet on the floor, smell your food, look at the food and then place a piece in your mouth….then chew. Let yourself taste the food before swallowing. I wonder…did it taste the way you thought or different. Did you judge yourself for eating this food or did you just enjoy. I wonder if we all really do know what we like…or if we eat the way we think we are supposed to?
Until next time be Unapologetically you, while I be Unapologetically me