By Michelle May, M.D.
As I mentioned in my last e-newsletter (and blogged about
throughout July on my blog at
http://blogs.eastvalleytribune.com/consumed/), we went to
New Zealand and Australia to visit my husband’s family.
New Zealand and Australia are known for their outstanding
"new world" wines. As wine lovers, (my mantra is “all
things in moderation”), I experienced the powerful
connection between wine tasting and mindful eating.
Although we weren't in the heart of wine region in either
country this trip, we managed to find some interesting
tasting rooms for a little "practice."
One tasting room (NOT the one in this picture) was built in
an old mortuary. I know; that should have been our first
clue. They served old (and I don't mean aged) wine in
little plastic communion-style cups. The wines had creepy
names that bore no relation to the grapes that gave their
life for us.
The wine maker, a retired chemist, bragged, "Making wine is
easy." I whispered in my husband's ear, "Making good wine -
now that's the hard part!"
It dawned on me that sometime during the 15 years since I
quit drinking white zinfandel from a box (not that there's
anything wrong with that), I had actually learned to
appreciate decent wine. I'm no expert but I know what I
like (and it isn't usually served in plastic). I had to ask
myself, so how did I become a bit of a wine snob?
The same way I became a foodie: one taste at a time.
By simply deciding to be attentive to what I eat (and
drink), I've become much more aware of the aromas, flavors,
and textures of food. More importantly, I've become much
more connected to the experience and its affect on my body.
Just as I know that there's an invisible but very real line
between enjoyment and abuse of wine, there's a similar line
that many people cross with food. The less mindful you are,
the more likely you are to cross that line.
This simple but profound lesson has allowed me to enjoy
food more while eating less. I’m no longer dazzled by large
portion sizes or distracted by packaging, health claims, or
other attempts to lure me into eating marginal food (any
more than the wine cellar viewed through the hole in the
floor where they used to raise the casket could distract me
into believing that wine was worth drinking!).
I'm certainly no sommelier, but I am grateful to have
discovered the similarities between the enjoyment of both
wine and food in moderation. So here's my take on…
The Basics of Wine Tasting and the Mindful Eating
Wine Tasting: Pour your wine in a clear, stemmed glass,
filling it only halfway or less so there's room to swirl.
Mindful Eating: Serve your food on a plate rather than
eating it out of cartons, bags, or other containers that
are destined for the dump or that prevent you from fully
seeing what you're putting in your mouth. And if you've got
so much food that you can’t even see the plate, you've
probably got more than you actually need.
SEE and SNIFF
Wine Tasting: Notice the color and viscosity of the wine.
Swirl it gently in the glass. Put your nose in and sniff
deeply to appreciate the aromas that hint about the terroir
(the climate, soil type, drainage, wind direction, humidity
and other factors in a particular vineyard) and the
winemaking process used.
Mindful Eating: Notice the colors, textures, and aromas of
your food. Take a moment to consider and express gratitude
for the food on your plate and everything and everyone that
contributed to getting it there to nourish you - from the
sun, the soil, the water, the farmer or rancher, the truck
driver, the clerk, the chef…
Wine Tasting: Sip a small mouthful of wine. Swish the wine
over your tongue and open your mouth slightly as you
inhale, bringing the aromas into the back of your nose.
Mindful Eating: Put a small amount of food in your mouth
and set your fork down so you can focus on the bite that is
in your mouth rather than the next one. Chew your food
thoroughly as you breathe to bring the flavors up to the
back of your nose where much of the "taste" of food
actually comes from.
Wine Tasting: Mentally describe the flavors, identifying
subtleties, similarities to other familiar flavors, and
noting how the wine complements or detracts from any food
Mindful Eating: Be aware of the flavors, textures, and
temperatures of your food. See if you can identify the
ingredients and notice how they layer to create new
SPIT (or SMALL BITES)
Wine Tasting: Spit out the wine if you’ll be tasting
several wines in a row so you don't dull your senses or
cross that invisible line between enjoyment and
Mindful Eating: DON'T spit out the food! Instead, take
small servings and small bites so you can pace yourself.
This will help you keep from crossing that invisible live
between enjoyment and misery.
Like tasting wine, the basic tenets of mindful eating are
to eat with attention and intention: attention to the
experience and the intention of enjoyment without having to
pay the price of excess. Although it may seem
counter-intuitive, the Am I Hungry? approach is really
about enjoying food more – not less.
Now, that’s something to toast!
Eat Mindfully. Live Vibrantly!
Michelle May, M.D.
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