Does it happen to you that, every once in a while, you hear a sentence that causes you to have a big AH-HA moment? Well, it happened to me last week. 1300 dietitians and I were attending the International Congress of Dietetics. In one session the presenter asked us in the audience: “Do you feel uncomfortable just eating?” Of all the hours of presentations that I heard last week, it is this question, this sentence, which is stuck in my head.
In the moment that the presenter asked me the question, I gave the knee-jerk response of “no”. Now upon further reflection I realize that I wasn’t telling myself the truth. It was my knee-jerk response because it was the ‘right’ answer. The socially-acceptable answer, at least in the social context of a group of 1300 dietitians.
But upon further reflection, I realize that my real answer is “yes”. If I am eating alone, I do feel uncomfortable ‘just’ eating. As in, eating without doing anything else simultaneously. I’ve long been a believer in stopping work to take a meal break. As a rule I don’t work on my computer while eating. And, I love to entertain. While some find a dinner party to be a source of stress, I truly love feeding people. The trouble comes when I’m alone. I’ve been divorced for over 5 years now. For the first few years, I filled the lonely silence at meals with the TV (well, Netflix on my laptop to be precise). More recently I’ve weaned myself off of the TV at breakfast and lunch. But I do usually read something while I eat dinner – magazines, novels, research articles, etc. and occasionally I watch Netflix. Something to distract myself from being totally mindful when eating.
This admission is a little bit risky because I teach mindfulness with my clients. But if you’ve been with me for a while, you know that I believe in being transparent. So I felt compelled to share my experience with you. Perhaps it is this very incongruence that made the question stick in my mind. I know that you don’t expect me to be perfect. But I really should practice what I preach. When the presenter asked the question, she shone a spotlight on my blind spot.
If I get nothing else out of the International Congress, I will consider it a week well spent. Why? Because I am taking the next two weeks of my trip to implement this change; I am committing to 'just' eating.
Now it’s my turn to ask you:
Do you feel uncomfortable ‘just’ eating?
If so, I encourage you to join me in closing the book, turning off the screen, and tuning in to your food. Eat mindfully. Become comfortable ‘just’ eating.