Eating in “Peace”
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN
No matter our age, our education or our past experiences, we are always able to learn more…especially new and different things. Two Fridays ago, alongside my peers, Andrea Gitter, MA, LCAT, and Jill Castle, RD, I delivered a presentation on Intuitive Eating and Diabetes to the New York City Nutrition Education Network (NYCNEN). After the presentation, NYCNEN offered the attendees a mindful lunch meal experience. I was super excited to partake with other registered dietitians and to share lunch with some former colleagues. However, when I arrived at the mindful lunch space, I was told we would be, believe it or not, eating in silence.
Ugh! I was not at an Ashram! I was definitely disappointed by this pronouncement. Of course, I wanted to chat and be mindful at the same time. After all, I live in NYC because, by genetic make-up, I am a confirmed, card-carrying multitasker. This was precious time I could be using to write, work and/or run errands. But I quickly had to let this mind set go and embrace the “silent eating.” I listened to our mindful meal leader Rachel Knopf, RD who was wonderful and engaging.
I took out the meal I had brought with me for the occasion: Thai chicken salad over primitive kale salad with two rather small rolls from Hu Kitchen—one of my favorite lunch spots! Rachel handed each luncher a page from Discover Mindful Eating that posed “Five Simple Questions”…
- What am I seeing? (bright green, wet kale leaves; red, mush and chunks – Thai chicken salad; toasted brown and shiny lumps, perhaps millet in the little bread-like rolls)
- What am I hearing? (crunch of the kale, not much else)
- What am I smelling? (the bread has this hearth-like smell)
- What am I tasting? (sweet, yet tart while the mini rolls were earthy and hearth like)
- What am I touching or feeling? (the rough texture of the goji berries, the wet kale leaves, the cool temperature of the chicken salad)
I immediately thought to myself…I already know to use my five senses when eating! I just want to talk with these fascinating women. But then I reminded myself that I surely could learn from this “silent” experience…and I did. When we are truly quiet and have nothing to do but pay attention to our food and/or our body, the experience of eating becomes like no other. While I regularly lead mindful meal groups, this experience was truly different because there was absolutely no speaking—from start to finish. Although there were people around me, I sat totally immersed in my own thoughts. I observed how I would so easily and quickly move from concentrating on my five senses while eating to diverting to my to-do list and what I wanted to chat about with my colleagues. Back and forth. Back and forth. I chuckled at the idea that I was really not doing a very good job of being mindful. I thought this must be what it feels like for my clients when they can’t settle their thoughts or focus on their meals. But just then I noticed this ever so slight small change seeming to indicate I was about full. I thought to myself: “Will this hold me for about three hours?” I wasn’t 100% percent sure…or 100% full. As I sat there, I noticed that I still had a physical need to eat more. So I took a few more bites. The experience reminded me of the very subtle feelings of fullness and the need to return to quiet at times during my own meals so that I can really check in with my internal cues. Note to self: I need to be more mindful than I have been of late.
So what else did this “quiet” experience teach me? Well, Rachel helped me to understand that in the world of meditation, mindfulness is simply the act of observing our present thoughts. She helped me to recognize that my thoughts about eating versus my thinking about my to-do list actually were the mindfulness. And switching back and forth between the two was 100% appropriate because I was both aware and observing. I also decided that it may be helpful to engage in this “silent eating” experience with the women who work with me. There is just something transcendent about eating in peace and quiet for an entire meal. I typically encourage people to start with the first few bites only. But if tolerable, it would be an extraordinary learning opportunity to eat a complete meal or snack in silence while just observing personal thoughts. I am so thankful to Rachel and this experience because, quite honestly, I never would have sat down for a meal with a bunch of friends or colleagues and even dared to suggest being 100% mindful instead of talking. And by the way, I also realized that I didn’t care for the Thai chicken salad or the little bumps of bread, but I absolutely love Hu’s kale salad!
So now, I challenge all of you to arrange a meal or snack where you eat in peace and quiet at least just once! We would love to hear what you learn!