Runner and Guest Columnist Anjana Mohan talks about food, fitness and the art of conscious eating for runners.
“So many fit aunties and uncles killing it in the gym these days no ?”, between bites, the conversation continues. Before you know it the plate is empty and you’re hankering for another bite of this or another piece of that. All too often the extra is waiting right in front of you to serve yourself. You add a guilty portion onto your plate and respond, “Exactly, so many more options for fitness now than in our parent’s generation. Such a good thing…”.
Every meal, everything we eat has a psychological satisfaction value. Let us call it the Satisfaction or S-index with 0 being, “didn’t even notice I consumed it” to 10 being, “enjoyed it with every fibre of my being and felt alive as every morsel hit my taste buds”. It is appealing to consider that our every meal could have an S-index of 10.
India is a foodie country and most Indian festivals revolve around food. This means that often the food itself will make us pause our conversations and optimize our S-index. However, India is also a very social culture, which means that food is seldom consumed alone. When there isn’t company, a laptop, reading material, the phone or other distractions accompany the meal. This dichotomy sets us up to consistently consume calories on the low end of the S-index. We often eat unconsciously and don’t make the most of our meals.
Consider how quickly pani-puri goes. If you’re one of two or three or the only one at a gol–gappa counter, it’s a matter of seconds before a round is over. If you go with friends or don’t pay attention, what you’re left with is the anticipation of having pani-puri, the satisfaction of having had it, but not the actual joy of eating it. The puri bursting inside your mouth and filling it with delicious pani, is exactly the experience that the modern food science of spherification holds as its holy grail. We take it for granted and are so familiar with it that we hardly pay attention.
In order to elevate our S-index of every meal, we must plan to eat alone, and truly alone without distractions. A prayer or meditation before a meal can help us focus on the experience and optimize our enjoyment. We must eat slowly and consciously allowing every texture, temperature and flavour to fill our senses. Unless you have a strong belief against water during a meal, use it to cleanse the palate after every bite, to experience each bite anew. Pay attention to how your body responds to the food. Pay attention to the portion size you need. S for Savor, S for Slow, S for Silence, S for Satisfied. You will eat less, enjoy your food more and refine your palate in the process.