Hello! You might notice that there hasn't been a post for a little while, and that is because I've been away exploring China! Apart from seeing the Great Wall, Tiannaman Square, The Forbidden City and lots of other incredible sights, I've had a culinary experience like no other in my life. In the past two weeks I've eaten more bizarre foods than you can imagine with Scorpions, Donkey Sandwiches and Chicken Feet to name a few.
But one meal in particular has made me write this post. I was very lucky to go to a bit of a Chinese Banquet at the start of my trip where I was seated at a big circular table with 9 Chinese ladies, and in the middle of the table on a revolving platform was some of the most fantastic, delicious foods I've ever seen. As the meal started, I looked for my knife and fork to start digging in, but instead saw only 2 small pieces of wood...
I looked round the table, to see the ladies brandishing theirs like a young Daniel Larusso (google him if you were born in the 1990's) and expertly tucking in as the food whizzed away. Now I've never been much good with chop-sticks, on the rare occasion that I find myself in a Chinese restaurant in the UK, I'll give them a go for 10 minutes before throwing in the towel and asking for something shiny and from Sheffield. However, this time through embarrassment and the fact the only mandarin words I knew were "Hello", "Thank you" and "Beer", I knew that I had to persist!
Eventually, the meal finished and two things stuck in my mind. The first was that I felt incredibly full, and the second was that I'd eaten about a quarter of amount I usually would at a sit-down meal. Of course the answer is that not only was I eating a lot slower than I usually would, but also, each mouthful was smaller, and I was really concentrating. Another name for this type of eating is called "Mindful Eating".
Basically, it means eating with attention and also intention. In the food abundant West, we tend to eat in quite an unhealthy way - it might be shoveling crisps in whilst you watch TV, it might be having a sandwich in between meetings or it might be any other distraction we have whilst eating and by doing this, we stop paying attention to not only the quality of the food, but also how much we are eating. A mindful approach to eating is a great way of improving your health. Here are my tips to help yourself eat more mindfully.
This is perhaps the most important one, remove any distractions and clear your eating space. Your meal time should be a time set aside just for eating. So turn off the TV, put away the crossword and think about the meal.
Try making everything a bit smaller - plates, bowls, cutlery, portions - Everything! In Asia, it's customary to leave some food on your plate when you are finished to show that your host has provided enough. Here we tend to be told that it is polite to clear your plate, which is great as nothing gets wasted, but it does mean that we often eat beyond the point when we need to. Smaller portions will help you regulate the amount you are eating.
Chew & Savor
Studies have shown that if you chew your food more, you will end up eating less. It also helps with digestion, so you will get more nutrition out of each mouthful. It's also good practice to really savor each flavour as it goes in - you will get more enjoyment out of your food too!
Put down your fork
This is something I ten to do to slow down the speed I eat. Between each swallow, put your cutlery down whilst you chew. This act will make you concentrate on the meal, and also burn a few extra calories!