Eating in the Dark
Everyone is telling us how to eat. If they’re not pushing advice about which foods or ingredients will ensure or compromise health or lengthen or shorten longevity, they’re giving guidance on portion size or misleadingly advising us how to feel full by tucking in a salad before a meal or drinking lots of water during one. And now we’re being told not to eat in the dark. Yup, I read it in Parade magazine. Do not, they insist, eat in the dark if you’re trying to lose weight or keep it off.
Which got me thinking, because a few nights before reading this information I happen to have awakened at 3:30 in the morning because I was hungry. It’s something that occurs a few times a year, but when I toss and turn and can’t sleep because my stomach is growling, the only thing to do is get up and eat. However, not wanting to shock my system, I made my way into the kitchen without turning on a light and ate in the dark.
Frankly, it was a wondrous experience. I enjoyed the lack of distraction, even things so mundane as gazing at my plants or staring at the kitchen cabinets. The room was pitch black and it was pointless to keep my eyes open, so I closed them. Now how often do we do that, eat with our eyes closed? Without external distraction and lacking visual cues about exactly how much food was left, I had only my sense of taste and satisfaction to tell me when I’d had enough. They were my lanterns in the dark.
When we eat in the light, we’re often focused on everything but food and it disappears quickly before our distracted eyes. Or we’re so hyperfocused on finishing (or not finishing) every last morsel, that we slip into autopilot and don’t taste a bite of it. But when it’s dark, we get to pay attention to what we’re eating to assess how much we’re enjoying it and recognize whether we’re satiated. The experience made me wonder if dysregulated eaters shouldn’t eat all their meals in the dark!
If you’ve not lately eaten the dark, I recommend you give it a try. It doesn’t matter what you eat, but I encourage you to choose something you enjoy. Close your eyes or keep them open, it doesn’t matter. Take small bites or mouthfuls, chew slowly, let food sit on your tongue, chew some more, let more food sit on your tongue, rest between bites and notice what’s going on in your body in response to food. Feel the swallow and, most of all, pay attention to when your tummy starts to feel full or your taste buds give you feedback that you’re satisfied. Revel in the sensation of satiation. You don’t need lights, and you surely don’t need experts, to tell you when enough is enough.