Life speeds by at 100 miles per hour; our attention is always on the next thing we need to do, on all the things we haven't managed to achieve - from picking up the dry cleaning to writing that best-selling novel that's been on our mind for years. We know we probably should slow down; all the wellness articles we scroll through on our phones tell us to "live in the moment", "be more now", "less is more". And the dry cleaning still needs to be picked up, the shopping done, work never ends, the kids have to be ferried from school to football / swimming / ballet / piano lesson / friend's house, there's a leak in the bathroom window and the dog has been sick (again).
And, on top of all that, we have to feed ourselves; if only to give ourselves the fuel to just get through it all. Who has time to actually plan a meal or think about the macro-nutrient balance of what we're eating? Where, in the neverending manic-ness of the day, can we carve out the time to actually sit down and pay attention to our food?
At the same time, we hate ourselves for the extra weight we're carrying, for the way we feel after one too many packets of crisps in front of the TV, for the reliance on two / (on a bad day) three glasses of wine each night. And there's a niggling feeling that we might be missing out on something: could it actually be possible to enjoy eating, to make it an experience rather than a chore, to take pleasure from the smells and the tastes and the textures?
As an experiment, try the following with whatever you are about to eat next (it will only take 5 minutes...and there's the number 5 again!):
Put it on a plate. Ideally on a favourite plate - one that lifts your heart to take out of the cupboard
Look at it. I mean, really look at it. Notice the colours, the shapes, the way it looks on that beautiful plate
Smell it. Lift the plate up to your nose and take a big sniff
Taste it. Put a piece in your mouth and let it sit there for a moment. What can you taste?
Chew it. Not 50 times (I hate my food going cold), and more times than you might usually when you're inhaling it
Repeat: look at what you are about to eat, smell it, taste it, chew it
You're paying some respect to the food that you're eating and expecting your body to transform into the energy you need. You're getting into relaxation mode which is the optimum mode for digestion. Your body isn't going to put much focus on extracting and distributing nutrients if, as far as it's concerned, you're under imminent mortal threat; that rush you're constantly in translates to "we're about to be attacked by a whole pride of lions" as far as your body's concerned.
You're gifting yourself a little bit of time and attention and, at the same time, learning about what you actually like in terms of food. Because it can be quite surprising what you discover when you slow down and actually taste the food you're eating. For me, bread turns into this cardboardy mush that doesn't appeal at all, whereas turnip (something I would never have tried before) reveals lovely subtle depths of flavour and sweetness.
Slow down. Try it - one mouthful at a time. Oh, and ditch the tablet / TV / back of the cereal packet at the same time. More on that to come...