What thoughts do you conjure up when you hear the words "mindful eating?" I have several. I picture a yogi meditating before eating his bowl of rice. I also envision a scientist examining my meals for content. Then I picture a family holding hands and giving thanks before a big family meal.
Mindfulness means to deliberately pay close attention without judgment. It involves being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically for you in that moment. The goal is to become free of habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
According to The Center for Mindful Eating, "Mindful eating is allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting you own inner wisdom." It's about using your senses to choose foods that are both pleasurable and nourishing to your body. Mindful eating means that you pay attention to your own responses to the foods that you eat, and to cues from your body (hunger, satiety, indifference).
My Thoughts on How to Eat, Drink and Be Mindful
I would add the following to the explanation given above:
- being aware of where one's food came from
- who was involved in its preparation from inception to delivery to your table (i.e., farmers, butchers, growers, retailers, cooks, etc.)
- acknowledgment of those with whom you are partaking in this meal
- and giving thanks for all this graciousness
History of Mindful Eating
An ancient Buddhist named Oryoki (translated means "just enough") taught a very meditative and process focused order of eating. He emphasized the importance of stopping when one was full. In the late 18th century an American health-faddist named Horace Fletcher taught the importance of chewing before swallowing. Sounds like common sense, but in our harried culture it is common for people to swallow their food almost whole. This puts a big brake on the process of digestion. He argued that by chewing one could also become a better connoisseur of good food. In more modern times Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society. He helped launch a mindful eating fad with his so called "raisin meditation." This is a guided exercise in mindful eating while eating raisins. This process encourages slowing down and becoming intimate with the nature of a single food.
What's the point of all this mindfulness? The problem is a lot of people eat for the wrong reasons. They eat when they are not hungry. They don't properly chew nor digest their food. Often times they are eating while doing other things and paying little or no attention to the body's cues for fullness. These things contribute to weight problems and ultimately ill health.
At your next meal I hope that you will pause and think before devouring your food. The European practice of eating in courses is a kind reminder of how proper attention to the meal can help with being more mindful, and hopefully thankful for what we have.