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Sensuous Eating: Eating with Beginner’s Mind

By Michelle May, M.D.

My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a two week trip through Italy. He’s a professional chef and I’ve long been fascinated by the European approach to food (and life) so it was the perfect “working” vacation. We were not disappointed!

Sensuous Eating

I can best describe our trip as “sensuous.” Haven’t you noticed that somehow everything seems better while on vacation? Before your mind goes any further, remember that sensuous is defined as:

  1. Relating to or derived from the senses.
  2. Appealing to or gratifying the senses.
  3. Readily affected through the senses.
  4. Highly appreciative of the pleasures of sensation.

ItalyAmalfi64.0-Ravello (640x427) So why is eating pizza in Italy so much more sensuous than eating a pizza delivered to your door? Because the experience is new. Rather than shifting into autopilot because we’ve “been there, done that,” the appearance, aromas, flavors, and textures are experienced as if for the first time.

In mindfulness, this is called the beginner’s mind. With beginner’s mind, we are fully present, engaged, alert, curious, and open to discovery.

Going Through the Motions

Most of us eat over 1500 snacks and meals a year so repetition is one reason we check out soon after the first bite or two. We quickly become distracted by TV, work, or driving. We also disconnect when we’re using the food for reasons other than nourishment or feel guilty about eating it.

When we are just going through the motions, we don’t fully enjoy the experience. We also miss the signals our body sends to let us know when we’ve had enough (until it’s too late!). As a consequence, we feel stuffed but unsatisfied, feeding the eat-repent-repeat cycle.

Love What You Eat

The next time you’re hungry, carefully choose a small amount of food and eat it like a young child experiencing that food for the very first time – with beginner’s mind.

  • Look at it closely, feel it, smell it, then taste it.
  • Notice the texture, temperature, aromas, and flavors as you slowly chew it.
  • Notice whether you’re tempted to pick up the next bite before you’re done with the first one.
  • Be aware of your body’s subtle signals of hunger and satisfaction.
  • If you become bored while eating, try re-engaging all of your senses.
  • If you’re still bored, you are probably done eating.

By treating each bite, food, or meal as though it’s the first time you’ve ever experienced it, there is no room for guilt, shame, or gluttony so eating becomes a sensuous, lovely experience every day. You don’t even have to go to Italy (though I highly recommend it!).

What else in your life would benefit from beginner’s mind?


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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