Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll answer unequivocally: I love breakfast. It’s hands-down my favorite meal. Eggs in any form delight me, oatmeal is a daily staple, and the smell of soft, warm sprouted grain bread popping out of the toaster makes me instantly happy. I’m smiling just thinking about it.
Yet, a couple of weeks ago I realized that while I enjoy the thought of breakfast, I wasn’t necessarily making the most of the experience. I’ve been experimenting with easy ways to bring mindfulness into my life, and I decided to give mindfully eating breakfast a try. It didn’t sound particularly appealing, paying so much conscious attention to my eating process. Would I feel gross or greedy? I wondered. Or…horror of horrors… what if I realized I actually didn’t love breakfast that much?
Practically speaking, a mindful breakfast also seemed like it would take foreeeeever. I imagined myself in slow-motion, reaching for yet another bite of toast. Still, I figured, I’d give it a try. Spoiler alert: I’m now in love with mindful eating.
Here’s what I did.
First, I made my usual breakfast. Two slices of sprouted grain toast, one buttered, one turned into an open-faced sandwich with two fried eggs, kale, and a slice of yogurt cheese (though I’m in the process of going dairy-free, and have replaced the cheese with avocado. YUM). As I prepared the food, I allowed myself to really be present, smelling the delicious smell of eggs sizzling in butter and feeling the textures of the ingredients in my hands as I went through the familiar process. I didn’t linger on anything, just allowed my thoughts to focus on being present in the experience, instead of distracting myself with memories, plans, or generating interesting ideas. The preparation process took no longer than usual, but was exponentially more rewarding. By the time I popped the eggs out of the pan, I was absolutely ready to eat.
As I took my place at the table, I made a couple of goals for myself. I decided I would treat each bite as a complete process, placing my food back on my plate in between mouthfuls and not beginning a new bite until its successor was completely down the hatch. This seemed like it would be very challenging, but it wasn’t, as long as I stayed present and didn’t let my thoughts wander. And boy, was it worth it. I placed my feet flat on the floor, picked up my food, and bit in. Just for good measure, I closed my eyes.
BEST. Choice. Ever.
It turns out that when you close your eyes to eat, all the energy that was being channeled into making sense of everything in your visual field gets redirected to your other senses: hearing, smell/taste, and touch. The familiar food was an explosion of sensations; I could pick out the individual ingredients in every mouthful, and even the regions of my tongue where different flavors were received. I appreciated the juxtaposition of textures, the layering of flavors, the harmonic interplay of salty cheese, savory egg, and bitter, earthy kale in a way I thought was reserved for the most self-indulgent of food critics. The most important part of this, for me, was that I knew exactly when I was full; being present in my eating experience took the anxiety of “should I eat more?” out of the equation entirely. I resolved a FOMO I didn’t even know I had. And I didn’t feel gross or weird– just happy.
I also timed myself, for practicality’s sake. Just under 15 minutes. Who can’t make time for that?
Since that morning, I’ve eaten breakfast mindfully almost every day I’ve been alone. The benefits are numerous: I look forward to eating without guilt, I feel less anxious, and I’ve started losing a little weight again, which I’m happy about. I’m back in love with breakfast, only this time I know it’s real. Most wonderfully, I’ve found another small, simple, significant way to use mindfulness to make my life better.
What do you think? Would you give one mindful breakfast a try?