Jeff Kontur is a man of many talents—he’s a marketer, he’s a photographer par excellence (that’s his photo you see on the left), he cooks…and he eats. Mindfully.
Jeff caught the urge to try this new-to-him way of eating after reading about it in the New York Times online edition. “Right away, the concept intrigued me,” he says. “This wasn’t a diet. You could eat whatever you want, as much as you want, any time you want. The key to it was that you had to slow down and actually appreciate what you were eating. In short, be ‘mindful’ of the experience.”
Turns out, this eating approach is trickier than it sounds. Changing up old habits to new, better ones takes a little Mindful Planning. “[It] was a new habit that would take some time to become ingrained,” he says.
Where you eat, with whom you eat also play a role. “When you really are in a hurry, or especially when others around you are rushing through their meals, it becomes much harder to carry on a different pace.” His wife, Sue, also read the article and wanted to join Jeff in the experiment.
The Kontur household is comprised of two teenage daughters and a teenage son; one daughter is a vegetarian, another is a pescatarian, and their son is “an avowed carnivore.” Jeff and Sue, partially by necessity, are flexitarians. “So, the ability to employ the Mindful Eating concept no matter what’s on your plate was very appealing to both of us.” The kids thought it was weird.
The couple ran into a challenge or two, at first. “Try being mindful of a Hot Pocket. Or some Girl Scout cookies.”
Tricks work! Jeff combined the best of the theory with real life, packaged them into a couple tricks, “…little shortcuts, as it were. I might be cheating but it does seem to help smooth the transition from our old way of more or less zoning out and stuffing it in.”
- Set your fork down and take your hand off of it between bites. It doesn’t have to be for long, and you don’t have to spend several minutes meditating over every morsel of food. That would be excruciating. But you do have to break contact with your utensils for at least a moment.
- Notice at least two things about the food in your mouth. These obviously cannot be visual things. You might pick out the flavors of two specific ingredients. Or a flavor and a texture. Spiciness and aroma. Heat or cold. Pick out more than two but don’t consider the mouthful complete until you’ve picked out at least two and actually taken the time to truly notice them. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t “notice” the same two things two mouthfuls in a row. You will end up noticing and appreciating the same things multiple times during the course of a meal, but don’t let it get too repetitive. Otherwise, it becomes just a different kind of unconscious eating.
- Unlike the suggestions given in the New York Times article, have conversations during your meal. But only between bites. And no conversing with a utensil in your hand. If you want to talk, it means you must take a short break from eating. Eating and talking are to become separate activities that cannot be combined.
There’s an analogy here too good to overlook: Mindful Eating and Mindful Listening. Dr. Loren Ekroth, “Dr. Conversation,” weighs in. “When eating, slow down, chew your food carefully, and digest it well. When listening, slow down, mull over what you hear, and let the meanings [soak] into your mind and heart.”
Jeff’s “tricks” have gradually made it easier to eat Mindfully, and he hopes it’ll become an ingrained habit some day. Meanwhile, it’s an exercise in Mindful Learning. “Both my wife’s and my experiences have been quite similar,” he says. “Even within the same meal, we may start out forgetting to eat Mindfully, and then catch ourselves. The opposite also happens, sometimes. We start out Mindfully but then start talking and the distraction throws us off-track (hence, Rule #3).”
But one thing is certain: He’s enjoying his food more.
If you’re contemplating a move to Mindful Eating, take the idea for a spin with Jeff’s super-easy, favorite recipe—because “…you’ll WANT to savor it!”
- 2 small scoops of butter almond ice cream
- 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
- 1/4 cup chocolate ganache*
*Slowly bring 1 pint heavy cream to a boil. Pour over 2 cups finely chopped dark chocolate. Mix until the cream has melted all the chocolate. Microwave 15 seconds, if necessary.
No matter what you eat—and I hope it’s mostly certified organic—try Jeff’s rules for Mindful Eating. While you’re at it, practice a little Mindful Listening, per Dr. Conversation’s “prescription.”