How to Eat

We never get taught how to eat, do we?

We get taught what to eat - leafy greens, proteins and fruits, lots of water.

We get taught when to eat - morning, midday, evening, not too much before bed.

We might get taught where to eat - at a table, not standing or driving.

And the guidance is forever changing: today, a cup of coffee will add four years to your life; tomorrow, caffeine is a gateway drug to who knows what.

The best we get taught about how to eat, though, is chew and swallow. And that’s like teaching someone to run a marathon by saying, You run. For 26.2 miles.

If we struggle with food - and I don’t know a soul who doesn’t - let’s be gentle with ourselves. We aren’t given instructions on how to do this basic act of survival.

So, I’m teaching myself how to eat. I’m not following dietitians on Twitter, reading nutrition books, trying new diets. I’m teaching myself how to enjoy food.

For me, I’ve found that enjoyment starts long before the toast goes in my mouth. Enjoyment starts with buying the bread: going to a store I like, choosing a loaf from a company I like, chatting it up with the cashiers.

Enjoyment is also the preparation. I can throw stuff in a toaster and toss it on a plate easy. But if we prepare it like we’re preparing it for someone we love, it changes the whole tenor of the experience. We’re acting with care. And we are worthy of food prepared with care.

And then there’s the enjoyment of actually tasting that bread. I mean, slowing down - which is hard, hard, hard for me - and savoring that toast. Or, as has happened to me, discovering I don’t actually like the taste of something I’ve been eating forever, just never eating slow enough to taste it.

I don’t want to be too precious here; this might sound like it takes some serious time. And it may take a little more than what we’re used to.

But the suffering for me that comes from food inhaled and not enjoyed lasts much longer than the mild discomfort of changing the time I put into my food.

I’m not preaching to you from on-high. Between drafting and editing this Note, I ate enough dinner for two of me, plus a piece of frozen bread I was too impatient to toast.

Learning how to eat is difficult: it’s unlearning years upon years of food shame, guilt, deprivation. But what I am slowly finding is that when I create the time to enjoy what I’m eating, it’s diminished the pain of food and elevated the delight in food.

Which seems to me a worthy end game: taking more delight in the very things we need to survive.

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