Mindfulness and Eating Clean

One night last week I got drawn in to making a bad choice. The after-school hours started out nicely. Henry had a friend over for a playdate so I was able to get my roasted chicken with apples and carrots prepared – a meal I wouldn’t normally make on a week night, but having the playdate gave me some freedom in that 4 o’clock hour to get the chicken in the oven for the 90 minutes of cooking. I was happily amused when the six carrots I swear I peeled were suddenly four and the boys hopped by playing “bunnies.” Who can get annoyed at two 7-year olds stealing carrots to snack on?

The afternoon went well: chicken in the oven by 4:40, play date finished about 5:30. The evening was shaping up nicely. My son turned on the TV and I let him. I am not a strict “no TV” person. There’s definitely a time and a place for it. I do limit the time and monitor the content, but sometimes it’s nice to zone out for him and for me to have my high-energy boy sit still for a while. So when dinner was ready, despite our recent habit of reading a passage from Thich Nhat Hahn’s “How to Eat” each night as we sit down to dinner, which clearly promotes the benefits of mindfulness while eating, I allowed the TV to stay on. And then my evening went south.

The roasted chicken was juicy and flavorful. The carrots and apples delicious. My baby spinach salad the perfect complement to the meal. Telling Henry to eat again and again as he sat mesmerized by an old episode of “Treehouse Masters” – not so perfect.

The show ended with only 25% of Henry’s food consumed. I had finished mine and even gotten up for seconds (probably not necessary). He immediately got up for the remote to turn on another episode when I reached for it to stop him and immediately the impact of my initial laziness was felt. He stamped down his foot in a way that brought my own rage to the surface and I quickly (shockingly to him) raised my voice and yelled, “That is not how you act. No more TV. Sit down and finish your dinner.”

Now, my highly sensitive son does not do well with sudden demands. So that set off a small upset from him. It took sitting on the couch together in silence to calm him.

As I reflected on the progression of the evening, I can see how moving from a full school day to an afternoon playdate led Henry to need his own “zone-out” time. On a good day, this is called “quiet time” and is a peaceful, calming 20 or so minutes for us both. Today, it was TV watching. And, I, needing my own “zone-out” time, let it go. Had I stepped in and turned it off as I set the table or better yet asked Henry to help me set the table in a practice of mindfulness and consciously moving from one activity to the next, our night would have gone down a different path.

I am learning the lessons of choosing mindfulness in my days again and again each day. As I have been creating the new Eating Clean: Soups & Stews program to start in January, I have been focusing on Eating Clean as a practice of the food I eat and also the energy and environment around eating. A healthy meal, served at a dining room table half cluttered in a room with the TV on is not clean eating. Eating Clean: Soups & Stews will support you (and me) in setting your table, creating a clean environment and mindfully enjoying the delicious meals you prepare with your loved ones. I can’t wait!

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