When we visited Italy, we didn’t see people hurtling down the sidewalks clutching cups of coffee or sandwiches.
In the U.S., at least in my corner of the country, life often becomes so hectic that it’s difficult to squeeze in a civilized meal—especially if you work long hours and have children. Americans may eat breakfast in the car on the way to work, eat lunch at their desks, and eat dinner in the car on the way to kids’ gymnastic lessons at night.
In contrast, meals in Italy were a treasured multi-course event. Of course, we were on vacation, but based on my Italian roots, I know my parents and grandparents ate that way, too. People deeply appreciated and respected the food they were eating.
When we wedge meals into jammed schedules and don’t pay attention to what we are eating, we’re much more likely to overeat. We also miss out on enjoying the flavors of our food.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read when I eat—from skimming cereal boxes as I ate my frosted flakes as a kid, until now, when I check news and social media as I eat lunch. But when I do that, I miss what I’m eating, and I’m more likely to troll for snacks later.
Before beginning a meal, close your eyes for a few minutes and take a deep breath. Engage as many of your senses as you can. Inhale the aromas of the food on your table. When you take that first bite, chew it slowly, savoring the interplay of flavors and textures. Set your fork down between bites. For a relaxing tone, play quiet music. Most of all, banish distractions during the meal, even if you have to move your phone to another room.
As with any habit, it takes time to learn mindful eating. And life will continue to be frenzied and exhausting. But if we learn to value the meals we eat and the people we share them with, it may go a long way toward reducing our stress and shifting our perspective to what’s most important.