“Carnal Eating”: A Mindful Eating Alternative to Enjoy Food More

Make Every Course Like Intercourse


Everyone’s extra fat and unfulfilled these days because good food is like good sex and we’re doing it wrong. Too-easy access to unwholesome materials, excessive distraction, manipulative marketing, and bad habits are screwing us up.

As with everything these days, the zen crowd has come to the rescue. Their solution: mindful eating. Pay attention to the experience of eating and witness your reactions to it without judgment, they say. Or something along those lines.

Meh.

If good food’s like good sex, mindful eating doesn’t do it for me. It feels a bit boring, forced, dry, and clinical to me. Maybe there’s a more exciting approach to enjoy our food more. One that’s healthy and hedonistic, natural and nasty, savage and sensual.

Let’s call it “carnal eating.”

The Carnal Eating Approach to Enjoy Food More

Go after food you can brag about rather than settle on something easy but embarrassing.

Pick the Right Partners

Set High Standards

Cheap and easy but mediocre food is everywhere. It throws itself at us with sexy packaging and seductive advertising. It’s hard to say no to, but not impossible.

Set your standards higher. It’s better to work or wait a bit to get it on gloriously with a 10-out-of-10 meal than settle with two or three trysts with subpar seductors or seductresses that leave you feeling dirty afterward. So don’t settle. You deserve dime piece dining.

Brag to your friends about the fantastic food you take down, too. A bit of healthy competition can lead to healthier eating habits for everyone.

Share the Experience

Eating, like sex, is best practiced with others, not all alone while you’re on your computer or your phone.

But unlike sex, it’s not awkward or mood-killing to talk about—emotionally or analytically—while you’re in the middle of it. It’s the opposite. So exchange your experiences as you eat with others. Share what you’re liking and disliking; dissect the individual ingredients and the recipe; and swap bites if you’re eating different things.

Do it at the table when you’re in the mood. Candles, oysters, and wine are bonuses.

Get In The Mood


Do It Where it Belongs

Nobody wants to see you do it on the subway, in your car, or on the sidewalk. Aside from a few kinky exceptions, resist temptation until you’re in an appropriate environment: sitting at a table. It’s more comfortable there, anyway.

Relish the Ritual

Researchers have found rituals help us enjoy food more. They’re the foreplay to eating.

For example:

  • We enjoy cake more when we sing happy birthday before and watch the birthday boy or girl slice it and dish it out.
  • We enjoy coffee more when we measure the beans, grind them, then carefully brew them.
  • And we enjoy our Chipotle burritos more if we have a particular way of slowly unwrapping them and adding our sauces.

So make more rituals out out your favorite foods. Take care and enjoy the ceremony of getting ready. Say grace. And maybe set the mood with lighting and music.

Enjoying food more at a dinner party
Hold off on quickies to save yourself for more meaningful meals. Even better if you find others to join.

Make It Meaningful


Cut the Quickies

Meaningless quickies throughout the day cause eating to lose its luster. To keep it fresh, limit yourself to two or three meaningful meals a day.

I know it’s hard to resist. Back before I “pretired,” I constantly nibbled on the half Subway sandwich, energy bars, nuts, and sweets I stashed in my desk drawer. But I managed to kick the habit. And so should you to enjoy your food more.

Maybe even consider abstaining entirely by fasting for a few days. Fasting has been a game-changer for me, with many unexpected benefits.

Don’t Worry About How Long You Last

Shoving it in emotionlessly, finishing quickly, and moving on with your day (maybe after a quick nap) isn’t the healthiest way to eat. We all know this. Every diet guru, doctor, and Cosmo magazine cover says so. “Slow down and chew thoroughly to give your digestive system the chance to tell you it’s full.” But we have a hard time heeding that advice when we’re hungry.

So don’t. Instead of worrying about how long you last, worry about how much enjoyment you get out of it.

Enjoying food thoroughly

Extract Maximum Enjoyment


Make It Sensational

Ogle the beauty of the food that lies before you. Tease yourself with little anticipation-building bites to start. Groan with pleasure on that first big bite. Close your eyes to hone in on the smells, sounds, and tastes. Change your pace and catch your breath every once in a while.

When you eat carnally, you’ll naturally last longer—not because some magazine or health guru told you to slow down, but because you get maximum enjoyment that way. And it won’t leave you feeling empty soon after.

Get Lost in the Moment

Get so hot and heavy with your magnificent meal that even if your phone were to ring in the middle of it, you’d quickly shut it up and turn it on airplane mode so you can get back to the action.

Switch Things Up

We tend to have a one-track mind when eating. We go hard on one part of the meal, finish with it, then move to the next.

This may be the most efficient way to eat, but it’s not the most enjoyable. It leads to what scientists call sensory-specific satiety, where each successive bite is less remarkable than the last.

So in your carnal eating food orgy, don’t leave any partner on your plate spectating from the side for too long. Take a bite of steak, then one of veggies, then one of potatoes. And keep switching it up from one bite to the next so your taste buds can’t get complacent.

And switch up what you put on your plate. Experiment with different flavors and cuisines. Food doesn’t get jealous, so spread the love.

Put a blindfold on every once in a while to spice things up and work on your skills.

Do It Well


Work On Your Skills

Nobody’s born a Don Juan of dining or Aphrodite of appetite-quenching. As with any ability, honing your perception and appreciation of flavor takes training and practice.

Do blind taste tests. Develop your vocabulary to be able to better describe and process your experience. Hone your sense of smell to pick up on things most people are too stuffed-up with busyness to notice. And practice with others.

The more you appreciate the nuances of the food, the more you enjoy it. Plus, the practice of improving your ability to eat becomes pleasurable in itself.

Get Your Hands Dirty Sometimes

Every once in a while, set the sterile silverware aside and enjoy the raw sensation of digging in with your hands. It adds an extra touchpoint to your meal, allows you to be extra precise with what you include in every bite, and restricts your hands from moving toward your distracting devices.

Carrots hugging themselves

Have a Fantastic F’ing Feast

Maybe it doesn’t take mindful eating to enjoy food more and have a healthier relationship with it. Maybe it’s the other way around. When we allow ourselves to give in to our urges and eat carnally, maybe they come as a consequence.

Try it next time you’re feeling hungry. Pick the right partners, get in the mood, make it meaningful, extract maximum enjoyment, and do it well.

Thanks to Barb Stuckey for, um, inseminating this carnal eating concept in me with her related idea of tantric eating in her book, Taste: Surprising Stories and Science About Why Food Tastes Good.

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Chris and Kim

Kim and Chris are exploring better ways to do... everything. Think, travel, exercise, work, relate, you name it. Every week-ish, we share a new idea in our newsletter, "Consider This."