You May Have More to Enjoy Than You Know

You May Have More to Enjoy Than You Know

(A re-post from Bill Adams’s Blog)

What does a farm boy from rural Michigan know about eating? The answer is “not much science but a whole lot of experience!” I’m not a doctor, a specialist or a nurse; nope, none of these above, just a normal guy that’s learned a few things about the process of eating from the perspective of NOT eating. First let’s say the obvious – eating is a function that the body does to live. It may be obvious but grossly, massively, and ignorantly overlooked by those that can eat. How can I say that you ask? Because I ate for 49 years just like the next guy and I never thought twice about it; of course other than the next yummy thing I was going to chow on.

When we are told that we will never eat again there are a lot of things that happen in our minds, emotions and bodies. For me it has been a long transition and really what I call “recovery”. After all, life will never be the same without food. Even so, there are some things that remain.  At first for me it was all about not eating, not enjoying the food in my mouth. I did not realize that there was so much more to the process. If you talk to a Speech Pathologist they can give you the detailed breakdown which is much more complicated than what I’m talking about. Here’s a great link if you want more detail: .

What we’re focusing on here are the “experiential” and “emotional” phases of eating – what we experience as a human being when we eat that directly reflects our emotions about eating. Never thought of that before? Me either. If you’re like me and can’t eat orally, or you know someone like me, there are some great things to take away from this process and find some joy in it, even without eating orally! The four experiential and emotional phases that I call “The 6 S’s of Eating”:  Sight, Sound, Smell, Salivary(Taste), Swallow, and Stomach. Each of these has a special part in the process and of digesting food and in the eating experience.

Number 1 and 2: Sight and Sound
What? Sight? Sound? That’s not a part of eating! Really? Think again and imagine… You’re hungry, maybe not even thinking about eating but you see your favorite food in a commercial on TV or radio. What happens? Food marketers know… You start thinking about eating! Before you know it you’re in the kitchen rummaging for something to munch on, or as those marketers would have it you are on the phone ordering up what they are selling.
Either way seeing or hearing about the food starts the process. Think about “presentation” at a restaurant, it’s all part of the dining experience. If it were not so, we would just mash everything into one pile on a plate and have at it! No, no, no, we don’t do that, we make food that looks good as well as tastes good.
Here’s one we’ve done a million times – You wander into the kitchen during a commercial break, open up the fridge or the pantry and say….. “What _____ good?” to yourself.  See??? (ok pun intended) It starts with sight and or sound.

Number 3: Smell
When you start to accept the fact that you are “Orally Food Free” (OFF) you can start enjoying the smells of foods for what they are, its not likely to happen before that time though. Your mind gets too caught up in what you CAN’T have and what you CAN’T do. Truly enjoying the smell of food is magnified when you have no other expectations about the food, the aroma is the enjoyment.
Every day I go to the gym. I work out; pump hard on the weights and / or cardio equipment. My workout is spent among the sights and sounds of people at 6:30 a.m., without their faces on and hair done up. After about 30 minutes of working out the restaurant next door opens up. How do I know it’s open? The smell of bacon permeates about half of the gym! (a great incentive to fuel up before hitting the gym!) If you’re like most everyone I know, any time they smell bacon is a good time!
Here’s another example: You are out to dinner and spend a little more attention on chowing than conversation. Before you know it you’re sitting there miserable in your seat thinking “why did I eat so much?” After dinner you and your significant other have a movie planned. You walk into the movie theater and the smell of popcorn is overwhelming! You are full, yet the popcorn smells so good! You have no intention of buying any popcorn yet you are enjoying the smell.  The joy is in the aroma, not necessarily in eating the food.
In the same way the orally food free person can still enjoy the smells of food just for what they are. Once the mind is set on the fact that food cannot be ingested through the mouth you are set free to enjoy the aroma for just what it is, and what a pleasure it is to smell!

Number 4: Salivary (Taste)
Taste is without a doubt the most popular of the four S’s. When one thinks about eating, immediately taste comes to mind. We unconsciously put taste top of the list, why? Simple – it’s the thing that supercharges the digestive process and stimulates the parts of the brain that make putting food in your mouth a good thing. If you look at it from a purely mechanical perspective there are two basic functions. 1)  If taste is not a function the saliva glands don’t produce saliva to break down the food. 2) If taste is not a function one really has no incentive to eat. How do I know this? As a head neck cancer survivor the radiation treatments left me with non functioning saliva glands and no taste for over a year. I had absolutely no interest in eating during that time. When my taste buds returned I started to have an interest and over time some of my saliva glands activated again.
Let’s not minimize this though, taste is an amazing part of eating – arguably the best part. The sensation of the food in your mouth, chewing and enjoying food is an amazing experience in it’s self.

Number 5: Swallow
The swallowing process is a huge part of the eating experience and emotional response. I heard one dysphasia (swallowing difficulty / inability) patient say “When you can’t swallow, all you think about is swallowing”. I found this to be extremely true. One of my friends has had her esophagus completely close. When she tried to swallow it was like the food was “hitting a wall” as she described it.
The esophagus is a muscle and contracts to “squeeze” the food down into the stomach – much like squeezing a tube of toothpaste. When this process can’t be completed for whatever reason the part of the brain that is used to it happening properly sends out a “red flag”.
For me the few times I’ve been able to swallow since not eating orally it was pure pleasure. I found myself having dreams of swallowing. When I asked my Speech Pathologist if this was common she confirmed that indeed it is.

Number 6: Stomach
Having a full belly is the whole point of eating; sufficient food to be turned into energy for your body. But let’s focus in on what it really feels like to be satisfied in the stomach. Take away for a minute all of the above processes. What if (and maybe you are) left with this one and only “S” from the four? Zoom in for a minute on the sensation. If you have all four or a combination of the above, take a minute to really explore what it feels like to be full. It’s a very distinct feeling. In “Smell” I talked about over eating and the feeling of being stuffed to the gills in one of my examples – I’m sure you can relate to that; but what about just normal full? Focus in on that sensation and see what you feel.
It may help to explore the feeling of being hungry. If you could take a mental snapshot of the feelings of hungry and full then compare the two, what would that look like? When you are hungry there is a sense of urgency to get some food and get it soon! When you are full that sensation is not there, another takes over as the body breaks down and processes the food. It’s a sense of satisfaction – that your mind and body can now move on to other tasks – a “completeness” if you will.

Sum It Up
Is it Sight? Sound? Smell? Salivary?  Swallow? or Stomach? Which one of the 6 S’s is it for you, or a combination of some of them?
No matter what the combination is for you there is some level of enjoyment that you can find in each of them. Whether it’s one, two, or three in a combination, if we can mindfully consider the process and focus in on it with a grateful attitude a new thought process can take over. You may find more joy in smelling food than you ever thought possible or the sensation of being full may bring on an entire new meaning for you. Wherever you’re at, I hope this article helps you find some joy and another step toward living life to the full!


About Bill Adams

Hi I’m Bill. I’m a 2007 Head Neck cancer survivor. I developed dysphasiga and myokymia 7 years post treatment – long term radiation effects. I am 49, athletic and on the move lifestyle. I no longer can eat or drink and have had a feeding tube since June of 2014. I also have developed limited speech ability as my tongue is no longer functional and my vocal chords do not respond correctly. It’s my journey and challenge to learn to live life fully on this new road. Join me, this battle cannot be won alone. If you know someone on this journey please refer my blog to them. May the words spoken here be a blessing to a soul in need…

You can find Bill’s blog here:

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