Nicole Centeno is a French Culinary Institute–trained chef and the founder and CEO of Splendid Spoon, a wellness brand that provides all the tools and meals you need to create a peaceful relationship with food and your body. At Boston College, she studied diet therapies as treatment for illness and has taught cooking and nutrition courses at Columbia University. Centeno has also cooked in New York City restaurants, managed a catering business and worked in media strategy at Conde Nast. Nicole is the author of the upcoming Soup Cleanse Cookbook, published by Rodale. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her two sons.
Instagram | @splendidspoonny
I live a life of many yesses. It’s how I’m built. I like my life to be full: two kids, my Splendid Spoon team, writing projects, hundreds of thousands of meals going out the door, maybe a date occasionally... Productivity, dynamism, and excitement are all words that describe my life. Peaceful, simple, and relaxed describe my life too. They seem to be on different ends of the spectrum, right? Mindfulness is what enables me to unite them, specifically, mindful eating.
When you run a start-up there’s always “too much,” and it satisfies my craving for “muchness”. But when I had my first son, I realized how selfish it was to demand so much from my world. It was a taker’s mentality, which I needed to grow out of. I also realized how haggard I was becoming. I was tired, getting sick more often, and stuck in a mental state where I believed I was never doing enough, nor doing the “right” things. I told myself that I had to begin to meditate. I had dipped in and out of a practice before, and so already knew that it made me more relaxed and at peace with myself.
But - I couldn’t meditate. No matter how hard I tried. At least, I thought I couldn’t. I was treating meditation like another item on my to-do list, and that wasn’t the path to a peaceful existence. I needed another entry point.
Something I COULD do? Eat! Eating was the only thing I made an effort to do while sitting down. So I started there. Food dances with every sensual pleasure, and because of this dynamism and the enjoyment I got from it, it was a wonderful entry point to becoming more present and mindful. Every lunchtime, I would close my laptop, hide my phone, and sit down with a warm bowl of something. Sometimes it was the night before’s leftovers. Most of the time it was the plant-based soups and bowls I was experimenting with for my new business. Every time my mind wandered to my to-do list, my plans for the evening, or the shower I hadn’t yet taken that day, I gently guided it back to my food, back to the moment of respite I had created for myself. I enjoyed this moment of nourishment. I relished the flavors I had put together on my spoon. I noticed the tension in my shoulders, and let it go. I noticed my mind getting worked up, and let it go. I let my senses pull me back into my material experience with food whenever I drifted elsewhere.
Finding a moment of peace in mealtime allowed me to block out the craziness of business, family, and fleeting time - and truly find peace and unity. I’m proof that you don’t have to meditate, or do things by the book, to be mindful. I still practice mindful eating every day, and with every meal I enjoy by myself. It has improved my relationship with food. It means I naturally sit down every time I eat. I don’t eat because I’m bored or worried. I slow down and eat because I’m hungry. It became a meditation in and of itself, and it was the core strength I needed to become peaceful with myself and the many engaging elements of my world. Mindful eating was my entry point to mindful living. I’m so grateful my hectic lifestyle eventually led me there.