My Dirty Little Secret

My Dirty Little Secret

Confession time!

First, I think it’s important to know that I’m a Holistic Nutritionist. And that I generate an income from teaching people how and what to eat.  Years ago my life changed by slowly altering my habits – specifically my food and lifestyle choices.  Now I educate and coach my clients to take the same simple, yet strategic steps to transform their lives in a holistic manner.

Here’s the thing, I still make mistakes along the way. My dirty little secret is that I eat TERRIBLY at times. Yes, it’s true. A holistic nutritionist falls off the wagon too from time to time. I spend a lot of time selecting, preparing and creating healthy foods. I actually love that part. I thrive when I eat whole real foods. I’m in my zone when I’m in the kitchen preparing fresh live foods. I willing invest my time to research where and how to buy good quality, local organic products, then I somehow come undone at my kitchen table.

I’ve just recently realized that I have reverted back to some very old bad habits. I catch myself eating quickly and sometimes not at all mindfully. I’m constantly reminding myself to slow down, put the book, paper or tablet down, be in the moment and JUST EAT.  It can be so hard to go slow sometimes.  Sometimes the busyness of life just creeps back in.

I hear myself trying to justify my excuses.  I’m saving time by multi-tasking and eating simultaneously. I’m in a hurry today. I have so much to get done. I know I can fit it all in; I’ve got this. What’s wrong with drinking a shake enroute? What’s the problem with eating my healthy lunch while I’m driving, or sitting at my desk working?

One of the main problems is that digestion is impaired and slowed when you don’t eat in a restful state. Another is that you don’t get a chance to fully enjoy the food you are eating. This is a BIGGIE for me, considering I invest so much time and money into buying quality food and preparing it. It tastes so good, I just want to get the next bite in.  I realize that I’m not even finished chewing my last bite of food and am already preparing for the next one.

Does this ever happen to you?  You catch yourself with your fork (or spoon) in mid-air hovering between bites ready to dive into the next one? Or worse yet, you stack the food on your fork in preparation for the next bite before you’ve even finished the one in your mouth?  Have you ever caught yourself chatting with a mouth full (or partially full) of food when gathered around a table? Well, I have.

How to Train a Wild Elephant


If you have the same “let’s get it done” approach to life as I do, if you eat in a hurry or without mindful awareness, you might want to practice this simple technique called “One Bite at a Time” that I learned years ago (and that I sometimes need to be reminded of) from a book called How to Train a Wild Elephant, by Jan Chozen.


In a nutshell, the strategy is this:

  • Put your fork, spoon or the food you’re eating down between bites.
  • Chew deliberately and completely before picking up the fork (or spoon or food) before your next bite.
  • Focus your awareness in your mouth, until that bite is enjoyed and completely swallowed.

Sounds simple, right? It is, if you GO SLOW and stay in the moment.  This is a mindfulness technique that I have learned and keep re-learning that helps me appreciate and savour mealtimes. The bonus of implementing this practice is that it not only helps with digestion, it strengthens awareness and the attempts to stay present in each moment.  It keeps you from forward thinking, planning, anticipating or rewinding to the past.

I invite you to give this simple little practice a try for a few days, a week, a month or a lifetime. I’d love to hear your comments and how it works for you.

For me, I notice my own impatience. How can a zen master be impatient you may ask? I’m still working on it (and that title) while being human. Although I meditate every day, I find my mind wanders when I eat. I’m constantly training that wild elephant of mine. Sometimes my chewing skills are completely non-existent. I rush the process and just swallow the food partially chewed. I find this strategy a great way to practice mindfulness throughout my day, since I eat at least 3 – 5 times everyday. This technique keeps me and my “elephant” in check.

While my mindfulness training starts in the morning with my daily meditation, that somehow seems to be the easy part. I sit in a quiet room, with a still body and gently calm my mind. The harder challenge is to take that stillness with me throughout my day as millions of distractions from our fast-paced society vie for my attention.

Who would ever have guessed  that there could be an art to eating?

I’ll be sharing more of these simple life practices, nutrition tips and many other life altering habits in my 8-week online program, designed to transform your body, health & life.  The Art of Living is offered twice a year, and you can get on the list NOW for an exclusive invite to the Fall launch by signing up HERE.

I’d love to know if this One Bite at a Time exercise is challenging for you and what other techniques you use to ensure you eat artfully. Let me know in the comments below.

Peace & slow chewing friends,

Sharlene Styles
Zen Master in training


No Comments

Post A Comment