How was your first bite?

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

Last week I dined out with a friend and selected Chicken Marsala from the menu. When the entree was served, I began my usual ritual before placing the first succulent bite in my mouth.

I paused to notice the lovely presentation with a generous amount of Marsala wine sauce coating the chicken. The fragrant aroma, wafting from the plate, only further increased my anticipation. Looking forward to the blend of spices and wine, I was eager to savor and enjoy my first bite. Mindful eaters know that hunger is the best seasoning and I was very hungry.

Rituals are a series of behaviors to an act that is to follow. Mindful eating rituals, such as pausing a few moments before eating, tap into your feelings of desire and sensations of hunger. These quiet moments entice and hone your mind to pay attention to your eating experience throughout your meal. When you notice the yummy intensity of your first bite fading while sensing a comfortable, satisfied feeling in your stomach, you begin to consider whether to eat more. This is a good time to set down your fork for a 10-minute pause to discern if you want to continue.

Does all this sound like boring mental gymnastics when you just want to relax and enjoy the meal? Most people report that paying attention helps them to easily eat less, yet they do not feel deprived as on a diet. They are surprised to learn that they do not like some foods as much as they thought. These are “aha” moments of discovery that open a whole new world of “how to eat”—hardly boring or grueling. These moments often result in healthier choices over time.

So how was my first bite? The only flavor this seasoned mindful eater (no pun intended) could detect was “salt”! I left most of it on my plate. On clearing and seeing my leftovers, the waiter asked, “How was your meal?” I said, “Well, the first bite reeked of salt. This dish must contain at least 1000 mg of salt—almost a day’s supply.” To my surprise, the bill did not include a charge for the entree.

When home, I looked up the level of salt on Google. The Chicken Marsala was listed as having 1800 mg of salt per serving. More than a day’s supply!

What about you? How was your first bite?

See more of Dr. Cullman’s columns visit Email or call 419-494-7699 to schedule an individual session. The next Mindful Eating Group Workshop will be scheduled next fall. Contact Dr. Cullman about presentations, seminars and personalized retreats.