If you are an M&M lover, you might not want to read this. I don’t want to ruin the candies for you. But if you could take them or leave them – or if you’re considering better eating habits – this story could help you. So read on, my friend.
I’ve been learning more about MBSR through a publication entitled Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, written by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein. It’s a terrific workbook and I recommend it to anyone interested in exploring or further committing to meditation. In this workbook, a mindful eating meditation is outlined.
Now, I’ve done eating meditations before. Thich Nhat Hanh offers beautiful versions in several of his books. But for some reason, this was the one that changed the way I looked at food forever.
I was buckling into my seat on a plane heading home from vacation with my family. Wedged in my seat back pocket was a big package of M&Ms. I know they’re bad for me and filled with artificial dyes, but I’m an advocate of moderation, so I settled in for the long trip home with my shiny brown bag full of 30% more candy and my MBSR workbook. I was reading intently while popping M&Ms two at a time (one for each side of my mouth – gotta keep it even) when I turned to the page about mindful eating.
The workbook suggested that I place three raisins in my hand and analyze them as if I was from outer space, never having set eyes on a raisin before. Well, I didn’t have raisins, so I used my M&Ms. I poured a few into my palm and contemplated. Then I glanced sideways at the markers on my daughter’s tray table. Then I looked back at the M&Ms. The candy didn’t look like food. The candy looked like a little pile of tiny toys – the same colors as my daughter’s plastic markers. Why am I eating this? This isn’t food. I started to wonder.
The workbook then invited me to place the food in my mouth and allow my senses to continue their exploration. I shook them in my hand first, hearing the way they rattled against each other. Click! Click! Click! Then I tossed the load into my mouth. They struck my teeth. Clack! I let them sit on my tongue then slowly began to roll them around my mouth. The candy shells were not delicious. They tasted like chemicals. There was nothing delightfully crisp or irresistibly oozy about their texture. In fact, they were surprisingly gritty.
I started to chew. Crunch. Crackle. Texturally, the M&Ms sort of felt like eating grains of sand. When the chocolate broke open, the taste wasn’t satisfying. The flavor was actually sort of metallic. I swallowed the lot after about 30 chews and paid attention to the way they sunk into my belly. I was totally surprised. It didn’t feel good. I sucked the last bits of chocolate out of my teeth and worked my jaw a little bit, feeling the way even the muscles near my eyes participated in the chewing process. Particles separated like tiny shards of seashells and slid, with effort, down my throat.
I sat for a little while, thinking about M&Ms and wondering why I’d never before paid more attention. I’ve always been a candy lover. I mean, I wake up in the morning and crave chocolate. But these days I’ve been waking up in the morning and craving carrots. I think it’s because of my mindful eating experiment, but I can’t be sure.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you a mindful eater? If not, try it once and tell me what you think!