Most people spend days or weeks planning for a holiday feast. The food shopping, inviting the right mix of people, planning a menu that pleases the whole clan, not to mention the baking, cooking, decorating, cleaning … everything must be perfect!
But then, you often won’t hear much conversation or connection once the food is served. In my family, it can feel like a race to the finish line, and it’s not more than 15 minutes before we’re clearing dishes and moving onto the next activity.
What’s the rush? Why do we hurry through the most rewarding part of the feast? And how do you break those patterns and introduce mindfulness into the holiday spirit? Here are a few simple exercises you can bring to your next holiday meal to encourage a mindful state of eating.
Set a Mindful Tone Before Dinner Is Served
Just before Uncle Bob or Grandma Myrtle serves the main course, request a silent pause before dinner begins. You can lead a collective, deep breath, suggest everyone offer an intention for the meal, or simply offer a genuine word of appreciation to the host for leading the charge and slaving in the kitchen.
Resist the urge to tackle your plate as soon as you take your seat. Take a moment to consider all the kindness that went into preparing each dish and thank the farmers, cooks, and hosts for making it all possible to enjoy.
Appreciate the Art
Notice the colors on your plate and the variety of textures. Choose one dish to point out to someone sitting next to you, as particularly artful to the eye.
Start a Conversation
Everyone knows it’s rude to eat with your mouth full, especially among family. Start a conversation with a family member you haven’t caught up with in a while mid-way through your meal. The chat will interrupt the food stuffing and slow you both down enough to really savor the meal.
Enjoy Small Bites
Consciously choose smaller bites to help you slow down your meal. It also helps you to really experience the nature of the food with all of your senses.
One of the commonly overlooked phases of digestion is chewing. The process of breaking down food actually begins with the enzymes in your mouth. Chew each bite thoroughly, which may mean 20 to 40 times per bite, depending on the meal. Chewing also allows your taste buds to really engage with the food. Plus, chewing can be time-consuming, and time is required in order for you to feel full. So mindful chewing is a good way to slow down and give fullness the time and space to arrive.
Rest Your Fork Between Bites
Resting your hands between bites is a surefire way to slow down the pace of eating. How often do you catch yourself preparing your next big bite—the right mix and ratio on the fork—when there is still a bite in your mouth that you should be enjoying? Lay down the utensils and rest your hands on the table for 10-20 seconds between bites so you can focus on your present mouthful. No need to keep track of time. Just a simple touch-down of your hands on the tablecloth will inspire the purposeful pause.
End on a Compliment
Before you get up to clear your plate, choose your favorite dish and compliment the creator. You can encourage everyone to do the same by suggesting you go around the table to share what was each person’s highlight of the meal. This not only makes the cooks feel good, but also encourages them to share their cooking talents and recipes with the whole gang more often.