Carolyn Wing Greenlee

Helps to Heal #2: Getting The Most Out Of Your Meal

So there I am, fresh green drink in one hand, other hand darting, lightning fast, in and out of the dishwasher like the tongue of a seeking serpent. I take a sip of vibrant enzymes, and slam the cabinet door shut with my foot. I’m the picture of efficiency.

But wait! There’s less.

According to a nutritionist at Harvard Medical School, we lose 30% to 40% absorption of the nutrition in our food when we multi-task. So much for driving and devouring drive-through fast food on our way to the next destination.

Somewhere I read that we shouldn’t even watch TV, read, or listen to music while we eat. Huh? What about mood music? I don’t know. That’s what I read. Apparently, anything that distracts us from focusing on our food hinders our digestion.

Really? How can that be?

I’ve thought a great deal about this, mainly because I have had a hard time not doing something else while I eat. There has to be enough evidence to make it worth the effort to stop.

So there I am, watching TV. The news reports political idiocy and my stomach gets into a knot. It’s Fight or Flight. We all know what that means. All the blood rushes to our limbs so we can run or implement our best karate. No time for digesting now! Our life is in jeopardy.

Or even the dishwasher thing. My muscles are moving as I glide around putting things in their proper places. I sip and bend and kick a drawer shut. My poor body wonders what it’s supposed to be prioritizing—dancing or digestion.

Tonight, without music, I sat at the table, my steaming bowl of broccoli in black bean sauce with brown rice pasta before me. I gazed at it, took a long, appreciative sniff, and made a point of noting the flavors and textures. Not only was my body focused on one thing only, I found myself enjoying my meal. I was present, experiencing what I was doing instead of gulping it down because I know I have to eat to be able to keep working.

Food is a gift. So many flavors and textures, fragrances and entertainments to the tongue! God could have made everything taste like artichokes (not that there’s anything wrong with artichokes), but He who created hummingbirds and flamingos gave us a vast array to enjoy.

Tonight, I made a point of noticing and appreciating every aspect of my meal. Gratitude was the only thing I felt, and my body knew exactly what to do.

By the way, digestive problems are a common symptom of scleroderma, along with difficulty swallowing. I have no doubt that single-tasking while I eat is going to help me as I continue on my road to recovery. I’m hoping it will help you, too, to get more out of your meal, both in absorption of nutrients, and in receiving with gratitude the blessing of food.

Next morning…

Fresh oatmeal this morning with freshly ground flax seed meal and homemade unsweetened almond milk. On the boom box was a CD of hymns—just piano. I wanted to test the “no music” recommendation. I mean, really, how could it hurt? No words. No symphonic ebb and flow. Piano playing pleasantly some of my favorite hymns. How innocuous can you get?

The oatmeal was creamy, but I was not tasting it. I was back in the 1980s, remembering Brother Scoggins and how he used to lead the song service with such exuberance. Tears came to my eyes. On 9-11 he was in the hospital. On every TV was the horror in New York. Tears were streaming down his face as he prayed and prayed, his heart torn with grief. The next day, he died.

That’s what music can do. Suddenly, you’re somewhere else, remembering someone, something. You’re no longer present, gratefully enjoying your nourishment. Food is meant to be more than vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber; it’s meant to nourish your soul, bring well-being and a sense of goodness. There’s a big nerve in there that takes the sensations right to your brain. I believe food and the daily necessity of ingesting it was designed to do more than help us survive; it was for appreciation. Gratitude opens the heart and helps us Live.

Today is the ninth anniversary of my mother’s death. For the last six months of her life, she was fed by a G-tube in her belly. Liquid formula went in from outside. She longed to taste even a spoonful of cottage cheese with apricot jam. But she couldn’t swallow right, and anything by mouth, even water, made her choke for hours.

Because of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), this year I’m celebrating her joyful wholeness in Heaven rather than grieving all her suffering—and mine. This anniversary reminds me, once again, what a privilege it is to taste food, and I intend to absorb every molecule of flavor and healing virtues. No more multi-tasking while I eat. Just thanks.

Carolyn and mother, Kay
Carolyn and mother, Kay


  1. Alice Trego

    April 1, 2013 - 3:42 PM

    Hi, Carolyn –

    Finally had a moment to stop by here and I’m glad I did! Good to hear you’re doing well, and that you have discovered the importance of focusing on food while eating.

    I have heard the same “rumors” as you about sitting at a table to eat with no distractions. I now sit in front of the TV and find myself noting the time of the program so I don’t eat so fast. I’ve also heard that one should take at least 15 minutes to eat a meal?

    It was also nice to see the mention of your Mom here. Isn’t it ironic — or maybe karmic? — that so many events in our lives are connected with loved ones?

    I am truly amazed at what you’re learning at this time in your life, dear friend, and I appreciate your sharing it with all of us here. I’m also amazed at your multi-tasking in the kitchen!


    Alice :)

    • Carolyn

      April 1, 2013 - 5:04 PM

      Fifteen minutes to eat, huh? That’s a good idea. We need a break several times a day. What a good time to rest! I think we need time to digest, too. Trying not to jump up and start going immediately following the last bite.

      It’s all part of living our lives to the fullest. Fullness does not mean more; it means getting the most out of whatever it is.

      You’re so right about what I’m learning during my recovery time. Just think, if it weren’t for the disease, I’d still be multi-tasking in the kitchen and getting very little out of my food, not even enjoyment!


  2. Nancy Cardoza

    March 25, 2013 - 7:17 PM

    I was just praying for you a few minutes ago. I thought it was just a general prayer asking God to meet your needs according to His riches in glory. And then I was impressed with the love you have for your Mother, the care you provided for her….and an impressed image of the beautiful orange flowers that grew in your backyard. Then just breathed those thoughts back to the Spirit of the Lord. Talking with God is never “just a general prayer” as I realize from reading this post it is the 9th anniversary of your mother’s death…and especially the NEW way of celebrating “her joyful presence in Heaven”. Amazing Love the Father has for you dear Carolyn.
    Eating in the moment is a sacred event the way you are discovering it!
    WOW, how you always challenge and entice me with …. more….
    Love you, nancy cardoza

  3. Jennifer Garrisi

    March 25, 2013 - 6:38 PM

    Thank you for that. Sending love your way!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.