I went into Vagabond Temple’s 7-day detox programme hoping to reboot my digestive system and recalibrate my hunger. But these were merely surface-level side effects when compared to the way fasting has completely transformed my relationship with food.
After breaking the fast, I wasn’t surprised by my lack of appetite and heightened senses. What astonished me was the way I began to ‘meditate’ over meals. Instead of shovelling down a plate of food in 5-seconds flat and then rushing back for seconds, I am savouring every bite. Literally. I am chewing each mouthful around 20-30 times before swallowing. I barely recognise my old-self in this new eating-style!
A seemingly small but significant change can be seen in my ‘fork’ etiquette. Instead of stacking up my next forkful as I chew my current mouthful, I pause to put down my fork so that I can properly enjoy the food in my mouth. The fork-to-mouth action sends a signal to the brain, which in turn triggers the reflex to swallow. So by simply prepping the next forkful you are forcing the body to rush through the eating process. It’s symptomatic of our fast-paced society, always looking forward to the next bite and rarely enjoying the one we are on.
My dining is different because I am no longer distracted. In fact, I no longer like to be distracted because it really does take away from the enjoyment of the food. Why would I want to split my attention when I have a delicious bowl of mango salad sat in front of me? We say we love food and yet we seem to focus on anything but the food, preoccupied with work e-mails, phone calls or the TV. Even socialising can take us away from the momentary mouthful, as our urgency to speak causes premature swallowing or speaking with a mouthful of food. This has been the most challenging change for me, as I love the social aspect of mealtimes. However you don’t have to eat in silence to take pleasure in a mindful meal. You just have to slow down and give yourself the time to truly taste your food. I manage this is by separating the processes of eating and speaking, which has had a positive affect on my listening skills too. While I am properly chewing my food (and allowing the digestive enzymes in my mouth to do their thing!) I am able to give my friend the space to talk without interruption (which is another of my bad habits!) Just slow down and simplify!
Don’t just take it from me though, try it for yourself and see if mindful eating can modify your mindset. From a purely physical perspective, conscious chewing will ease digestion, as you won’t have big chunks of food swimming around in your stomach for days at a time! You’ll also eat less because it allows time for the “I’m full” function to kick in. At the moment, I’m taking at least 40 minutes to finish a small bowl of vegetables and rice and I’m still leaving food behind. Reconnecting with my senses has completely countered my fear of food, as I trust that my body will tell me what to eat and when to stop. I will never go back to my old ways because eating this way is so much more satisfying.
Make meal times a daily meditation. Listen to the body and indulge in each and every bite!
Upcoming dates for Vagabond Temple’s 5 or 7-day detox programmes:
23rd – 28th/ 30th January 2017
27th March – 1st/ 3rd April 2017
15th – 20th/ 22nd May 2017
Many thanks to @searching4conrad for the fantastic food photos!