Chocolate. What does it mean to you? Does the very word take you to a special place? Does it trigger feelings of guilt and desire, or just thoughts of weight loss? And how do you eat it? Are you someone who sits down and relishes every bite? Or do you wolf it down in a hurry, on your own and in secret?
Mindful eating is pretty big right now. Most of the time it’s being touted as the next big diet plan – and understandably so, as it really fundamentally transforms one’s relationship with food. However, I can’t help thinking that undervalues the potential of mindful eating, because it’s about so much more than that.
Just like meditation, you really need to experience mindful eating for it to make much sense. Reading about how something tastes is so different from actually putting it in your mouth and having the experience. My personal favourite for this exercise is chocolate, but you can do it with anything at all – the same rules apply.
Personally, I think you’ll enjoy this exercise the most if you break off a square of really good chocolate, rather than doing it with a drugstore candy bar: but again, that’s entirely up to you. Whatever type of chocolate you choose, the basic premise is there same: eat it as if it’s the first piece of chocolate you’ve ever tasted…and the last piece of chocolate you’ll ever have the chance to taste…savour it!
Here a few simple steps for your first foray into mindful eating.
1) Before you pick up the chocolate take a couple of deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, just to allow the body and mind to settle a little. Mentally leave behind whatever you’re doing for a moment or two.
2) Take a moment to appreciate the chocolate. Where has it come from? What’s in it? Try and imagine the different ingredients in their natural growing environment and even the types of people who might have grown the cocoa beans.
3) Before you begin to eat it, pause to notice if there’s a feeling of impatience, of just wanting to eat it as quickly as possible. Notice if there are feelings of pleasure and excitement, or feelings of guilt and unease, about the idea of eating the chocolate.
4) Slowly unwrap the chocolate and then take a good minute or so to explore it with your eyes, nose and hands. Look at it closely, smell it carefully and then touch it to see how it feels.
5) By now you’ll be more than ready to taste it. Take a small bite (or alternatively put the whole thing in your mouth), but try to resist chewing the chocolate. Notice how it feels in the mouth, the temperature and the texture. Also become aware of the taste – whether it’s sweet, bitter, creamy etc. Try to allow the chocolate to melt in the mouth by gently moving it around with your tongue, rather than chewing it. Sit back in your chair and enjoy the moment.
Remember, appreciate it, savour it, and enjoy it.
For more on mindful eating check out this week’s episode of Radio Headspace, where we examine the choices we make at the supermaket.