I did this mindful eating challenge a couple days ago, and part of it was to blog about my experience, and I've been thinking it over. Suggestions included sitting at the table, turning off electronics, savoring each bite, setting my utensils down and sipping water between bites, enjoying the company of others present at the meal, and letting the meal take at least 20 minutes.
Last week I noticed I sometimes want to get through with eating so I can get back to something else. I was eating on the stairs that day because I let the baby fall asleep on my bed and I needed to be close at hand in case he woke up. So I was sitting on the stairs eating and trying not to think about what I wanted to be doing, which was a google search. (This was not the challenge day, I was just trying to eat mindfully). I struck a deal where I stopped reading while I took a bite and chewed it, but I switched back to reading while I swallowed. This got me thinking about multitasking.
A lot of the discussion on multitasking concerns distracted driving, and I've heard it asserted that we don't actually multitask, that our attention can only be on one thing at a time, and if we do anything else while driving, no one is at the wheel. I find this a little improbable since driving itself is a multitasking activity. I borrowed my mom's stickshift a while back, and went right back to clutching and moving the stick alongside my usual thinking of where I needed to go, reading signs, steering, and not speeding. I think it's true that we are already doing about as many things as the average person can do simultaneously (or in some kind of attention multiplexing) so that talking on the phone, texting, or using a computer is going to be overly taxing.
But what if you're not an average person? The latest research shows an interesting phenomenon, that people who enjoy multitasking are actually worse at it than people who are uncomfortable multitasking. In particular, the pro-multitaskers show less ability to identify which of the competing inputs are most important or relevant to their task. At least, I think that's what this article is saying:
Researchers theorize that people multitask not because they are so good at it, but because they can't inhibit the impulse to follow other distractions, that multitaskers are not more connected, but less connected. I'd suggest that when it comes to distracted eating, it is a way of unplugging.
I mean, how does emotional eating even make sense? We have a feeling we want to get away from, so we eat? I don't think the purpose is to drown out the feelings with food, but to make to two compete so that we wind up experiencing neither. When I'm eating mindlessly, I don't fully experience my food. My portion is all but gone, and I wonder where it went.
Well, I'm not sure that I'm ready to implement all the suggestions of an ideal mindful eating experience. To do so would take too much attention, I'm afraid. I am willing to try and make some little changes. I'm not ready to put my utensils down between bites, but I have been working on having water with my meal. Again, not every bite, but every few. I think the goal, in the end, is not to have so many things happening all at once, but to attend to the most relevant feeling, which is enjoyment of my food. As I did the actual mindful eating challenge this week, I decided that however I'm dealing with the meal, however long it takes, if I am feeling gratitude for my food as I eat it I will make progress in becoming a more mindful eater.