My favorite part of any day? Watching my16-month old daughter, Azita, eat. It’s a thing of beauty, and I’ve learned more from watching her eat than from all the diet books and magazines and websites I’ve read over the past three decades.
Azita savors her food. She enjoys it with all of her senses. When I place her plate in front of her she first takes it all in with her eyes, maybe even pointing out the names or colors of some of the foods. She picks up her food and feels it between her fingers before she pops it in her mouth. She chews slowly, rolling the food around in her mouth so she can taste every bite. She savors each and every bite of broccoli or beans or strawberries or cream-topped yogurt, learning their flavors.
When I watch her eat it is just so clear how much of the world she is learning and loving and just how much of it I rush past. You see all of us at some point experienced the world the way Azita does. We all stopped to smell those roses we hear so much about, especially when it comes to eating. We all at some time slowed down to really taste and enjoy the food we were eating, and this is something we can and should re-learn from our children.
Recently I was lucky to be invited by Mamapedia to attend a webinar sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board in which renowned food authors Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough discussed their new book, Real Food Has Curves: How to Get Off Processed Food, Lose Weight, and Love What You Eat. It was an interesting presentation. Truthfully, they won me over to their point of view when they put up a slide with their recipe for chocolate pudding. Any food plan that includes chocolate pudding is a winner in my book.
All 7 steps of their food plan reminded me of the way Azita approaches food. Her favorite foods are the things I make from scratch. The fresher, the more unprocessed, the more flavorful, the better. I still remember the awe I felt on the day she chose some more fresh broccoli sauteed with garlic in a little olive oil over a cheap-o piece of chocolate cake I got for dessert from the grocery store. But it was the third step in their plan that really struck a chord with me:Â Relish your food.
That’s it. Relish your food. That is what Azita does each and every time she eats something, and I can’t remember the last time I relished anything I ate. How can that be?
We all start off eating slowly and really tasting what we’re eating, and somewhere along the line some of us, me included, end up eating our breakfasts on the way to work, wolfing down our lunches at our desk, and eating our dinner in front of the tv. It didn’t used to be this way. In the days of Father Knows Best, people sat down with their families to eat their meals together. The French are known throughout the world for savoring long meals filled with rich, flavorful foods. Is it a coincidence that the French are also known for their sexy figures and obesity was a rare thing in our grandparents’ day?
I think not. As Weinstein and Scarbrough pointed out, when we slow down to relish our food we are more apt to eat less. We not only more clearly recognize that we are full, but we feel more satisfied. In other words, what we eat is more likely to hit the spot, and we are less likely to end a meal craving more even if we are full. It makes sense. The American phenomenon of the all-you-can-eat buffet is proof of that. People eat and eat and eat until they are sick and still leave the buffet feeling unsatisfied. But a special meal at a four-star restaurant with someone you love, where you slow down and enjoy the conversation and the complex flavors of the food? While it may be a fraction of the portion size of your buffet plate, there is no doubt that you will leave that meal feeling satiated.
Over the years, my mother has given me a lot of advice, and I’ll admit I haven’t listened to much of it. There is one thing she once told me that makes a lot of sense right about now — “Even the smartest person in the world can learn something from anybody, even a baby.” Well, it turns out she’s right, because I’ve learned a lot from watching Azita eat. I’ve learned to slow down at the dinner table and to really savor my food, and it’s nice to see a food plan out there that not only doesn’t deprive you of food but also tackles what I think is the heart of the obesity problem in this country — eating in the fast lane.