Learning How to Savor, Not Count Calories

I was recently out with some friends that I haven’t seen in many years. They sort of know I teach mindful eating, but my guess is that they have not read much on the topic. When we started to order food, one friend said she wanted to order the fries and wanted to know who would share them with her.  She looked at me and said, “not you, of course.” It took me a moment to clear my head and ask what she meant by that. Her reply was interesting “well, you watch your weight and count your calories.”

Unfortunately, that is a common misperception that people have about mindful eating. As soon as someone hears the word “eating” they assume you must be counting calories and watching your weight. Or you must not eat dessert, right?! People hide their plates from me when they get food at a party. And people run away down the grocery aisle when they see me coming. It is slightly humorous but also very sad. I am not the food police and mindful eating is not about restriction or deprivation.

Mindful eating is about savoring your food and finding delicious ways to enjoy it. This is what motivated me to make a career out of mindful eating from the very beginning. I love food and enjoy it tremendously. However, I knew that many people both love and hate food because they feel they have no control over it, or they feel like the pleasure from food is something that must be avoided. They also have a conflicted relationship with their bodies into which the food must go. The interaction of those battles results in an inability to truly taste and savor food or kindly listen to how the body responds to it. My true desire was and is to help people enjoy and savor food the way that I do. With delight and glee, as well as honor and respect.

What does it mean to savor? According to the positive psychology literature: “When one savors, one is aware of pleasure and appreciates the positive feelings one is experiencing.” This implies that you could be experiencing something pleasant but not savoring it, because you aren’t even aware of it, much less appreciating it. Thus, the important ingredients for savoring are both your presence and your appreciation when pleasant sensations arise.  When you have guilt around eating something, it is very difficult to savor it.

Savoring requires that we experience, let go, and trust that there will always be more to savor later. This ability to savor is what helps people stop eating when their bellies are getting full. Even if the food tastes great, the belly is telling you to stop. And knowing you can always savor at each meal, helps you to put down the fork before the pleasant taste becomes an unpleasant belly ache.

Life offers us a smorgasbord of delights each day, from each mindful meal, to watching your child take their first step, to meeting a goal that’s important to you. In my new book, Savor Every Bite: Mindful Ways To Eat, Love Your Body, and Live with Joy, I talk about savoring in the following ways:

(1)  Savor every bite: Although you probably won’t ever savor absolutely every bite, you can certainly increase paying more attention and appreciating the experience.

(2)  Savor the food you really want: Tune in to your body to find out what you really want to eat. When you give yourself what you really want, then you’re more likely to be able to savor it.

(3)  Savor the pleasant: Studies show that pleasant events outnumber unpleasant events by a 3-to-1 margin in everyday life! Are you getting the most out of your life?

(4)  Savor every moment: I know it sounds trite, but all we have is this moment to find happiness, enjoyment, contentment, and peace.

(5)  Savor every movement: Look for ways to bring delicious movement into your life.

(6)  Savor seeing, smelling, and hearing: Use seeing, smelling, and even hearing to enjoy and savor your food more fully, enjoy and savor your surroundings, and enjoy and savor anything that you do.

(7)  Savor one thing at a time: it’s actually impossible to savor more than one thing at a time. Get out of multitasking mode, and savor what’s right in front of you.

(8)  Savor nature: Improve your ability to focus, relax your hurried mind, and appreciate your life by spending time in nature.

(9)  Savor generosity: The more you give the more you have. Where can you practice generosity today?

(10) Savor life: Have you thanked your body for waking up today? This might be the only day you have. Savor it fully.

For more information on each one of these ways of savoring, take a peek at my book for the savoring practices listed under each one. Or if you’d like to take a deeper dive into mindful eating, join me for my next 10 week Eat for Life Class starting in September. Register here!

Savoring is when you intentionally try to make positive emotions last longer or be stronger. Starting with savoring every bite, you can expand your capacity to savor the entire fabric of your life, woven with layers of pleasure you may often overlook.

Be it tart or sweet, always savor the moment. You’ll not taste one just like it again. Erica Alex