By: Alison Marras
April 20, 2018
(updated February 17, 2021)
Placing food on a plate was never anything I’d pay attention to growing up. If it looked appetizing, great. If it came out of a pizza box onto a paper towel… awesome. Who cares, right? As it turns out… we all do. I’m talking Mindful Eating.
The saying, “We eat with our eyes first”, isn’t just describing pretty food. It describes the very first step in our digestion process because it all kicks off in our brain. When we see beautiful, delicious food… when we smell the aroma of something we love like fresh pressed garlic sautéing in butter and mushrooms or homemade chicken soup that’s been simmering for hours, we are having a truly sensual experience. And nothing could be better to signal a successful meal when we are about to properly digest and absorb all the nutrients coming our way.
Because your brain is signaling to every subsequent part in the digestive tract to wakie-wakie and do it’s thing. Firstly, the mouth… you need to salivate. Your saliva contains “salivary amylase” which has enzymes to start breaking down food (mainly carbs) along with your teeth as you chew.
Then, the stomach! Your stomach is like a washer machine that needs to be turned on or that food will sit and ferment and that’s not pleasant for you or anyone around you! Stomach acid needs to get churning with crucial enzymes and juices to cleanse the chewed up food (from harmful bacteria and parasites), and to break the food down even further so it can head over to the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed and then of course to your large intestine where it’s finished up and waste is eliminated. Those are some basics of digestion.
If you can think of digestion as one long domino effect, you can start to see why kicking it off right by slowing down and savoring food is so pivotal.
So, food styling. This clicked for me right around the time I started becoming addicted to cooking shows!! Many moons ago. I’d see all the points food styling/plating would get during the judging portion of shows like Iron Chef and my now husband and I would start joking in the kitchen on who won plating between us! We loved watching how they’d style their plates with various garnishes, sauces, taking composition into account, colors and textures galore. And I’d notice when going out to nice restaurants and seeing these pretty plates of food… how much slower I ate it, how much more attention was paid to the sensual joy of eating vs. shoveling mosh down my throat while watching TV. But along I went on my merry way, not giving that too much importance but really loving the artistic side of cooking.. and practicing it a bit on my Instagram account #foodie #foodiesofinstagram. This all led me to my food blog, which put me elbows deep in all things food photography and styling. Making food look good became a constant practice as my skills improved. Every meal became an opportunity to practice it and it was one of my favorite parts of the few workshops I’ve attended.
Before I knew it, what started out as a creative passion… translated into science the deeper I got into my nutrition education. And the deeper my relationship got with food and my own body.
I realized that food styling was my way to show gratitude and care for the food that was about to nourish me. Arranging food on the plate, touching it with my hands brought me closer in connection to the food, the colors, the textures… the ingredients, and how the different flavors complimented each other. This combined with constantly practicing my cooking skills really gave me more and more confidence in the kitchen.
MY POINT? While we all might not have DSLR cameras and food props ready to go before we eat, we do all have EYES and do tend to be attracted to pretty plates, right? We may find ourselves entertaining at holidays or parties, or snapping the occasional #eatingfortheinsta pic. So eating with your eyes first isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s a beautiful thing. And savoring your food is way better for your digestion than any pill. Blog or no blog, you eat, you look, and you digest… setting yourself up for success by arranging your plate in an aesthetically pleasing way might really surprise you! It might be fun, and as you practice, it doesn’t take much effort at all. Making it a fun contest with your friends and family on who plated it best can get people helping in the kitchen… and slowing down to savor and enjoy your food and the company you’re eating with can really do wonders for your digestive process and your general happiness. I’d encourage anyone to practice this.
I want to hear from you now below!! Want to practice with me?
Tell me your favorite mindful eating practice (breathing, taking your time, pretty plating, lighting candles, chewing well, sitting, not looking at screens, etc.)
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