Mindful Eating, Food Allergies

The recent New York Times article Mindful Eating as Food for Thought struck a chord: “Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it."

Many of us with food allergies are hardwired to practice "mindful eating". However, we are not mindful of pleasure but for food allergic cues and symptoms. Because of that wiring, we miss out on the other aspects of eating, that of non-food allergic pleasurable tastes, sensations and textures. Frankly, because we have to become attuned to what we are eating and any possible reactions (or we automatically become more mindful after a particularly scary food allergic response) pleasure is that last thing on our minds - survival is.

But what if you added pleasure into the mix? What if you took a food that was safe for you and set aside some quality time with that ingredient, prepared it, served it and then ate it, relishing every bite, slowing down to enjoy that safe ingredient? What is you did what the New York Times article talks about here: “Today’s experiment in eating, however, involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam. Continue this way throughout the course of a meal, and you’ll experience the third-eye-opening pleasures and frustrations of a practice known as mindful eating.”

Most often when I eat, it is with a lingering smidgeon of concern, a question mark or outright fear of "will I be allergic to this". But, I have also trained myself to recognize and experience pleasure with safe foods. It’s part of why I dine out so often, why I enjoy trying something new once a week, why I love cooking and entertaining – because in addition to knowing the real risks to me and what a food allergic response looks like and how to treat it, I have connected to the pleasure of food.

If this sounds interesting to you, try this:  pick one food that you love that is safe for you. Once you have picked that food, plan a date for you and that food. It doesn’t have to be a three hour date, a three minute tasting/enjoying date would do. Prepare it and serve it and while you are consuming it, think about the taste, textures, flavors and sensations that you are getting from that food. Concentrate on the pleasurable aspects of that food. Then shift your focus to the trusting aspects. When you trust this food, how does that make you feel? Where do you feel that trust in your body? What words come to mind? Thoughts? Memories? Colors? Sit with those feelings for a few moments, enjoying the food, the trust. Enjoy those non-allergic moments. Then notice: do you have new feelings about this safe food? Write them down and report back to us.

Meanwhile, I’m off to enjoy a steak at Morandi where I will be mindful of every delicious and safe bite.


Autumn Rose said…
"pleasure is that last thing on our minds - survival is." This is so true. Thanks for the post encouraging us to experience the pleasure that comes from eating.

In that sam vein, I know a lot of people who don't suffer from allergies love trying new foods. For me, even when I feel assured a new food is not contaminated and even when I want to try the food, I have trouble making myself. I usually tend to try just a bite or two of the food while at home with all of my medicine and with people who know how to handle an adverse reaction. Do you have any other tips?

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