Most weekday mornings, I eat the same oatmeal breakfast. I’ve prepared it so many times now that I barely have to pay attention, which is a relief considering I’d prefer to mainline my cold-brewed iced coffee before attempting anything more advanced.
Ten minutes after I’ve begun, I’m settling down at the table with a piping hot, fluffy bowl of oatmeal. I dip my spoon into a jar of Teddie peanut butter, emerge with a gritty dollop, and lay it in the center of the bowl. I wait a few seconds, watching as the peanut butter spreads into a puddle, as it melts from the heat of the oats. I smear it across the top of the oats, frosting them with a thin glaze. When I’ve covered it sufficiently, I eat. And each spoonful is fluffy and hot and containing at least a drip of salty peanut butter. It’s the best.
And all the while that I’m eating the oatmeal, I’m reading blogs, checking my favorite websites, and catching up on email. This morning routine is so, so dear to me. It may very well be my favorite part of the day. It’s quiet. I’m drinking coffee. To-do lists don’t have to be tackled just yet. I’m wearing the softest popsicle-print pajama pants. If those aren’t the criteria for a good time, I don’t know what is.
What’s different about my breakfast hour in comparison to my other mealtimes is that there’s a lot of distraction present. At any other time–lunch, dinner, dessert–I make a point to focus exclusively on the dining experience. I pay attention to the food and my companions, and I tune out all the rest. No computers, no television, nothing outside of my plate, my partners, and the ambiance. The point? Mindfulness. The benefit? Complete sensory satisfaction.
I’ve heard it said that the more you enjoy your meal, the more fondly you’re likely to think of it afterward, which will lead to a greater feeling of fullness and satisfaction for hours after. I know that this is true for me. When I savor a meal, when I stop all else and pay attention to the gratification of the whole experience, all five of my senses are heightened. They’re receiving pleasure. And I’m able to leave the table with greater ease.
When I practice distraction-free, focused eating, mealtime becomes a special ritual. It becomes sacred, something I practice daily. I’m more purposeful in what I choose to consume. I’m more acutely aware of my hunger and fullness cues. I begin to associate eating with unique times of day, and circumstances, while simultaneously weakening my associations to eat in less mindful circumstances, like while watching TV, driving, or standing up.
Mindfulness has been one of the most beneficial practices I’ve added to my life. It allows me a sense of calm in the chaos of our food culture. It gives me the power to savor my meal on my terms.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you try to eat without distractions? Has it been helpful?