You Are How You Eat. ~ Dan Slanger

Via on Nov 2, 2010

vegan soup




















Eating can be good for you(r mind).

A Mindful Eating Primer

Abstract: Eating is an occasion to meditate. In this post I (1) explain how to meditate while eating, (2) list some reasons to meditate while eating, and (3) list some resources for learning more about (1) and (2).

How To Meditate While Eating

I put “eat” on my iCal every day. I put it under “practice”—with “sit” and “yoga”—because eating a meal meditatively is a good way to practice mindfulness. Before I detail why it’s good, here’s what it is (at least for me):

(1) Find some food. At least to start, pick whatever food you want. However, for meditative eating, I sometimes find it easier to focus when I eat “earthy” food that takes a few chews to want to swallow. I also like finger food. So, for example, a small plate of cut fruit and raw almonds might work well. But, again, to start, whatever you want. Since part of the benefit of meditative eating is coming to associate a feeling of calm with foods you might otherwise feel stressed over eating, you might want to pick a piece of cake.

(2) Take a seat. With the food before you, take a seat and keep a straight back, looking straight ahead.

(3) Pick a point (or two). Pick one or two reference points to keep focused on as you eat. I usually bounce between attending to my mouth (visualize the food as it enters my mouth, visualize my teeth and tongue as I chew and dissolve the food) and my back (keep it straight).

(4) Take a break. Between each unit of food you put in your mouth, put your hands on you lap and keep them there as you slowly, attentively chew your food until it has an even, smooth texture and you’ve exploited the bite for all it’s worth.

(5) Set a timer. I use the same kitchen timer I use for zazen. I set it for anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes. If I finish my food before the timer goes off, I just keep my hands in my lap and keep paying attention to my mouth and back until the time is up. If I still have food after the time is up, I either keep meditatively eating until it’s gone or I just put the food in the fridge and return to it when I’m hungry. If you don’t have a kitchen timer, you could set a watch or eye a clock (but try not to eye the clock too often).

There’s more to mindful eating but I’ll let the links below flesh things out. The gist is to pay attention to some set of reference points that run through the experience of eating a meal—much like zazen or yoga is, at least on one level, a matter of attending to some set of reference points—breath, spine, gaze—that run through the experience of sitting on a pillow or moving through a pose.

Some Reasons To Meditate While Eating

Meditative eating is the first piece of advice I tell friends and family who express an interest in improving their diet. The practice:

(1) Makes you eat a little less yet feel a little fuller. It might just be because you’re forcing yourself to slow down and so your brain has time to talk to your stomach. But I imagine part of it is that, when we’re calm and less stressed from the meditation, we’re less likely to want to overeat (a pretty natural, common response to stress and wayward emotions).

(2) Gives you an organic way to fit meditation into your schedule. Sometimes it’s hard to make time for yoga or zazen but we’re likely going to spend twenty minutes on a meal a few times a day because we’re going to get hungry and because eating is enjoyable.

(3) Improves your digestion. Slow chews let your saliva do what it was meant to do—help your stomach out so it doesn’t get overworked.

(4) Makes food taste so much better. When you’re eating as quickly as you can and surfing your inbox and the news-feed as you do, you’re not paying attention to the rich, subtle taste and texture of your food.

Some Resources For Learning More About Mindful Eating

(1) The Center For Mindful Eating

(2) mindfuleating.org

(3) Savor:Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung

(4) Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Joy Chozen Bays

(5) Do a Google search for “mindful eating” and you’ll find many enthusiastic, evangelical bloggers and authors writing on the topic.

Dan





Dan Slanger likes to bike around town and be on mountains. You can write him at dslanger(at)gmail(dot)com or find him on Facebook.



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14 Responses to “You Are How You Eat. ~ Dan Slanger”

  1. helene_rose says:

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing…
    Check out my poem on mindful eating here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/09/my-lover-m

    Peace,
    Helene

  2. yogafreedomfoundation says:

    These are excellent reminders. Thank you! I want to go eat mindfully right now!

    • Dan Slanger says:

      I hope you do/did. Mindful eating—like yoga and zazen—is a practice that, after you do it, you always think "Wow. Why don't I always do this? This is amazing." And yet— also like yoga and zazen and all sorts of good for you habits—is something an unsettled soul wants to resist even though a part of it knows just how good it is to do. Maybe we can do an EJ thirty day challenge where a group of us tries to eat meditatively once every day.

  3. We were taught when we were young to count our chews on each bite. However high we counted while chewing, that's how high we have to count when finished before taking the next bite. We were all big readers at the table, nose in our books. This did lend to slower eating, but less mindful attention paid to what was being eaten. Still trying to break myself of that habit.

  4. Dan Slanger says:

    Wow. It's coming to our attention at EJ that we have a problem with our comments being posted and then disappearing. It seems all of my replies to all of your comments (except Determinedtoheal's… so far, hopefully it will stay up) are gone after just having posted them. This is sad. I will try and reconstruct the comments and post them later.

  5. soundthinker says:

    "When you sit, sit. When you read, read. When you eat, eat."

    If only more people lived by the principles behind these words…

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