This post is the second installment on the Sense component of the Karma Sense Eating Plan. To summarize our journey so far:
- There is a post that gives an overview of the entire plan.
- There is a post that discusses the detail of how Karma plays a role in good health and what you can do now to spread good Karma.
- There is a post that explains how Sense, as in “common sense” and as in “feeling”, plays a role in good health.
You’re now reading a continuation of that last post on Sense. Below I give some practical suggestions on how to link acts of kindness to the food you eat; all for the sake of a better you and a better world. And to do that, we’re going to have to take a look at your current relationship with food and mealtime, as well as explore the phenomenon of…
I admit it, I’m a geezer. But I try hard not to think, act, or pine for the old days like geezers tend to do. For example, when one of my geriatric peers says “Feh!” (which is a geezer’s way of saying “I don’t understand, but I want to express general disapproval anyway”) and follows his or her “Feh!” with complaints about “kids today” and their video games and their face piercings and how they’re all lazy, I usually toss a “geezer” flag
and declare a 20-yard penalty. The 20 yards make for good exercise even though it takes the typical geezer much of the day to get that far.
Maybe this is a better example (at the very least you can’t deny that it’s a different one). We’ll progress through this example by simulating one of those BuzzFeed quizzes that is so popular with you kids today (yes, I’m aware that only geezers are still taking those quizzes but bear with me here).
In this single question quiz, we’re going to predict an important fact about you. Here is the question:
Who performs your favorite version of a song with the title “Shake it Up?”
A. The Cars
B. Taylor Swift
C. Selena Gomez
D. None of the above
If you picked A: You’re a geezer
This song is from the 80s. The lyrics consist of little more than “Dance all night” and “Shake it up.” Yet still you can’t accept that a more nuanced song could possibly be released by a recent artist.
If you picked B: You need to work on your reading comprehension
I said “Shake it Up”, not “Shake it Off”. Nice try though. Catchy.
If you picked C: You’re a student of behavioral science and the theory of habit change
This song that accompanied a short-lived Disney Channel series (that I had no idea existed until I started researching this post. Yes, I actually research this stuff), includes these lines taken directly from the book on Habit Change Theory (that I should write someday):
Shake it up!
Break it down
This brief couplet (I know, technically not a couplet, Pedant!) explains everything we need to do to reprogram your eating habits and to reap the rewards of Karma Sense Eating. With KSEP, we “Shake it up!” by building in some new habits just before you actually start eating. We “Break it down” by slowing you down and encouraging you to enjoy your meal in ways you now take for granted.
If you picked D: Not only are you a geezer but your negative attitude is kind of bringing the rest of us down
You either responded this way because your music appreciation pre-dates the 1980s or because you’re making a snide remark (aka snark) and being snarky is yet another thing we geezers ruined for the youth of today. Snark is out. Positivity is in. I know it’s in because it’s a crucial part of the Karma Sense Eating Plan.
With this scholarly review of the theory of habit change as brought to us by Dr. Selena Gomez behind us, let’s look at the first step to applying your senses to Karma Sense Eating…
Shake it up!
I’m going to get serious for a minute. I say that because people usually can’t tell when I am. “Shake it up” is a very concise but flip way of explaining an important concept in the Karma Sense Eating Plan.
Mind-LESS eating is a problem and Mind-FUL eating is a solution. You are eating mindlessly when any of the following occurs.
- You’re distracted (eating while watching TV, eating at your desk at work, obsessing over what you should have said to Jenkins when he made that wise crack two hours ago).
- Binge eating or eating until stuffed.
- Not thoroughly enjoying the eating experience.
- Feeling bad physically or mentally as a result of what you ate.
Mindful eating is a state in which you are totally focused on the process of eating. You’re experiencing the entire activity (with all your senses and across the dimension of time). When it comes to eating the Karma Sense way, you’re going to “Break it down” into its individual components of texture, smell, taste and so on. Don’t worry though, you’re not going to eat mindfully at the expense of enjoying the company of others. Mindful eating is not mutually exclusive with being socially connected at mealtime. Mindful eating will allow you to enjoy your food in ways you have not experienced since those strained peas were drying in your ear canal when you were a baby.
But mindful eating has other benefits besides making meals more pleasurable. Research shows that distracted eaters consume more food than people who eat without distractions. A different study demonstrates that introducing a mindful eating practice for obese subjects resulted in weight loss and reduced stress.
Is mindful eating a panacea to the world’s ever-increasing obesity problem (and the chronic disease epidemic that accompanies it?) No. But the research indicates that it will help and since the downside is limited, it’s worth a try. But even if you’re sold at this point, there’s still a problem. That problem is that the firmly entrenched habits you developed over all those years of eating are so darn hard to break. I know, in conceiving this plan I would get halfway through my meal before realizing I forgot the pre-meal ritual. And that’s why I asked in the introductory post of Karma Sense Eating and will ask again now, that you do the following two things right before you start a meal:
- Perform an act of good Karma. Without beating a dead horse (which would create bad Karma), you should plan on doing a good deed associated with eating. This will get you in the mindset to eat more mindFULlly. If you need to beat that horse, read more about Karma’s role in the Karma Sense Eating Plan here. If your good Karma act has to happen well in advance of a meal or has to wait until after, then just incorporate a reflection of what you did or will do when you perform the second pre-meal ritual which is…
- Include a moment of gratitude. There is definitely a spiritual aspect to associating gratitude with meal time. Many religions encourage this practice. Unfortunately, because of religious connotations, other people eschew the practice. I consider myself a spiritual person. The whole concept of KSEP was spawned from that aspect of my life. But spirituality is such a private thing that inflicting a specific brand has no place in a concept like KSEP which strives to be so inclusive. The good news here is that this moment of gratitude is not just a spiritual device, it’s backed by science. Multiple studies (like this one), show that overt expressions of gratitude lead to greater happiness. Furthermore, people who adopt this type of practice required less visits to physicians and exercised more. For a totally entertaining and informative discussion on the science of happiness, gratitude, health, and intelligence, watch this 12 minute Ted Talk by Shawn Achor.
Your Before Meal Ritual
Yes, there is all this goodness but let’s not forget the other reason why you’re engaging in a pre-meal ritual, to “Shake it up!” We want to use this ritual to raise awareness that you’re transitioning into mealtime. The fact that doing so also makes you happier is just gravy. There are no rules as to how you actually perform this ritual. If you already have a moment of grace, then just incorporate your new Karma Sense topics. If this is new to you, you can do this sitting or standing, in silence or aloud, head-bowed and eyes shut, or head up and eyes open. It doesn’t matter. Experiment. Give the Karate Kid Crane Kick a try for all I care.
Just include the following content in your thoughts.
- Your act of good Karma. Think about how it made you feel. How it made the subject of your kindness feel. How it may have spread to others.
- A kindness done to you. Think about something someone did for you that you appreciate. Or think of a characteristic that someone has that impacted you in a positive way. Think about how it made you feel and how it may have affected others. Consider the variety of ways to thank that person and agree to do one of them. By the way, it’s okay if the kindness was done by you and for you. We deserve to pat ourselves on the back now and then.
- The actual meal itself. Everything you are about to consume was alive at some point. You extend your own life at the expense of some other organism’s life. You extend other’s lives by extending your own (by this I mean other people, creatures, or plants that may depend on you including those billions of bacteria living on and in your body.) The food you are about to eat lived its life at the expense of some other carbon-based plant or creature (it had to eat too). Another line of thought revolves around the energy required to bring your meal to your table. From the people who grow the food to the people who move the food closer to you. The cooks. The servers. The cleaning crew. And the waste removers. Not to get all Lion King on you but it’s the gosh darn circle of life. And it’s right there in front of you. It’s amazing. beautiful, and delicious all at the same time.
Perhaps the biggest challenge associated with the above is remembering to do it in the first place. There are a number of ways you can hack your memory to make this happen. Almost by definition, you already have some kind of ritual that you follow before you eat. You drink a glass of water. You lock your computer screen. You set the table. Something. Whatever that thing is, do something to disrupt it right now. Move your water-glass somewhere you don’t usually expect it. Change your computer wallpaper. Fold the napkins to look like swans. Do it now. Any of this will start the “Shake it up!” process and remind you to do your pre-meal ritual. My favorite disruptor is to turn on my Spiderman Web Hand.
And please, no distractions (look, a squirrel!)
Then, after you enjoy your moment of gratitude (the only way to do it wrong is to not enjoy it), you will be ready to transition into the next phase of Dr. Gomez’ program for positive habit development…
Break it Down
If you recall from the introductory post on the Karma Sense Eating Plan, the third element of “Sense” requested that you Eat Slowly and Stop Before You’re Full. There are a number of good reasons to do this and many techniques to make it happen in a meaningful (and mindful) way. To fully reacquaint you with the true pleasure of eating and of food, we’re going to break the process down into its constituent parts. We’re going to do that in the next post in which we begin a discussion on the “Eating” component of KSEP. To Eat Slowly and Stop Before You’re Full requires keen attention to how you feel (i.e. your senses). It also is a critical aspect to healthful eating. And therefore this behavior is relevant to both the Sense component and the Eating component of KSEP. It simply can’t pick a side. It’s wishy-washy in that way. But we love it none the less. And you will learn to love it too in the next post.
But while Eating Slowly and Stopping Before You’re Full may fear commitment, I feel compelled to offer a clean distinction. So I’ll end this discussion with a chart. Because that is how I roll.
- To change deeply ingrained habits you need to find a way to break your patterns. You Need to Shake it up!
- Shake it up! by introducing a new ritual just before you eat.
- The ritual should include reflection on a kindness you performed, reflection on a kindness done for you, and acknowledgement of the sacrifice and effort that went into creating your meal. This one act will make you healthier, happier, and wise all on its own.
- This new ritual puts you in a better position to eat mindfully. Mindful eating leads to physical, mental, and spiritual well being.