I undertook a one bowl challenge after learning about Don Gerrard’s book, One Bowl: A Guide to Eating for Body and Spirit. I haven’t read this book, but I was inspired to see what I would learn from eating from the same bowl for 30 days.
One Bowl: Practical issues
I knew there would be meals that I would eat away from home for the month, so I excused myself from the challenge at these times.
I also decided that some meals, such as a vegetable pie, do not fit into a bowl. So rather than destroy the food to make it fit into the bowl, I graciously ate my pie from a plate.
These practical issues in themselves provide insight into our personal values about food and our respect for the creator of our meal.
One Bowl: Insights and Tips
1) Empty bowl, empty stomach
Looking into my empty bowl prior to my meals connected me to the hunger I was feeling in my empty stomach. It was a very visual connection.
2) How much food to satisfy my hunger?
Using the same bowl allowed me to adjust my quantity of food based on my level of hunger
The same amount of food looks different in different sized and shaped bowls and plates.
“Using the one bowl provides additional guidance on how much to eat in the current moment.”
Tip: Choose a bowl that matches your appetite range—not too small or too big. A smaller bowl is better because you can always have another portion.
3) One bowl for all of your food and drink
Early during my challenge, I felt that a smaller bowl than mine would provide an additional advantage—I could use it as my cup too.
Imagine having the same vessel for all of your food and drinks.
This means that you couldn’t eat and drink at the same time.
One disadvantage, it is more difficult to manage spaghetti and salad in a bowl that is only 250 to 300ml in volume. And I would definitely have had to take second serves with a smaller bowl.
Tip: Choose a bowl that suits your purpose.
4) Appetite fluctuates from meal to meal
As you can see in the photo above, the quantities of food I ate at different times varied greatly.
Don’t think you have to eat the same amount of food at each mealtime every day.
“Trust your appetite.”
5) Holding the bowl connects you to the food
Holding my food provided a greater sense of connection. There seemed to be a more direct flow of energy from the food to me.
I held the bowl in my left hand and my utensils in my right. Compared to eating at a table, where you are only connected to your utensils. The plate of food is usually on the table.
Tip: Make sure all of the food that goes into your bowl is bite size, then there is no need for a knife.
6) One bowl can travel anywhere
I have really enjoyed the mobility of my meals
- Sitting cross-legged on the floor
- Enjoying the outdoors and some sunshine
- Relaxing on the sofa
This again emphasises the direct connection I felt with the bowl of food. We were one and traveled to wherever I felt like eating.
Tip: Choose a bowl that is comfortable to hold.
7) My blue bowl
I noticed how the colour of my bowl highlighted the colours of my food. It was visually appealing.
The bowl also took on a different shade of blue in varying levels of light.
Tip: Choose a bowl that you find visually appealing.
8) One bowl, before, during and after
I deliberately chose a bowl that needed to be hand washed.
My blue bowl is a handmade clay bowl, so requires mindful washing too.
I have enjoyed hand washing my bowl, as it provides additional time to express gratitude for the meal that I have just eaten.
Tip: Choose a bowl that requires hand washing
9) Serving food in a bowl
As I mentioned above, some foods are more suited to being served in a bowl:
- Rice or quinoa based meals e.g. stir-fry, salads
- Small pasta (rather than spaghetti or fettuccine)
- Small serves of protein e.g. tofu, falafel
- Boiled, poached and scrambled egg, in preference to omelet or frittata
Tip: Place the unmixed rice or pasta or salad at the bottom of the bowl and then add the other ingredients on top e.g. curry, pasta sauce or falafel
10) Food eaten without a bowl or plate
Something that I hadn’t considered before, was how often my snacks do not require a bowl or plate:
- Handful of nuts
- Whole piece of fruit e.g. apple
- Cheese and cracker
- Slice of toast
Snacking can be a mindfulness activity or habit. I have found that most of my clients are usually able to recall their meals more easily than snacks. So having one bowl to eat from makes you more aware of snacks too. And you have the opportunity the check whether you need a snack at all.
One Bowl: The gifts
Reflecting on my experience from eating from one bowl, the greatest gift has been the connection I have felt by holding my bowl of food. The feeling of oneness is so beneficial to the eating process.
I have also loved being able to eat my meals away from the table, to enjoy our garden or to relax on the sofa.
I also believe the direct visual feedback we gain from the amount of food that satisfies our varying states of hunger is invaluable, especially if you have a tendency to eat until you are full or very full.
To gain the highest benefit from a One Bowl Challenge, you need to remain mindful during the whole process of eating—before, during and after. Even when holding my bowl, my mind does wander off to other thoughts and plans for what to do after my meal.
Mindful eating occurs due to our intention to stay present and curious for the total duration of our eating experience.
You can find out more about mindful eating in the Eating for You book and mindful eating workshop.