First a story…
The Chocolate Bar Mystery
I was delighted to learn that dark chocolate (containing 70 percent cocoa) counts as a healthy food. It contains many healthful substances: antioxidants, stearic acid (a type of fat that doesn’t raise cholesterol levels), and flavonoids which reduce the stickiness of platelets, inhibiting blood clotting and reducing the danger of heart attack.
So, I invested in my health and bought several organic 70 percent chocolate bars. Aware that eating too much chocolate may erase its health benefits, I planned to eat the recommended 1-ounce at a time, several times during the week.
Enter the chocolate bar…
I took a bite of my chocolate bar. Oh, it was good!
I decided to let the chocolate melt in my mouth — to savor it slowly. I turned on the TV as the yummy taste lingered. It was so good; I took another bite as I watched the TV. Well… the next thing I knew the whole 3-ounce bar was gone. I didn’t even recall eating it!
I might as well not have eaten the last 2-ounces of the chocolate bar. I had no pleasure from them. Having eaten them, I likely erased its health benefits.
I tell you this story so that you can learn from my experience and join me in the experience of learning mindful eating.
Mindful eating brings your full awareness to the experience of eating. It’s the meditation technique of mindfulness meditation that helps you live your life fully.
Mindful Eating Practice
Chose a food you enjoy — a chocolate, a piece of fruit, or what ever.
What is the nature of this food? Notice it shape, color, and texture. What is its origin? Is it plant or animal based?
How do you feel about eating this food? Is their anticipation, gratitude, appreciation?
Bring yourself to the present moment. Tune-In to your breathing. Feel the air move into your body as you anticipate bringing this food into your body. Relax; be present to this moment of eating your food.
Take the food into your mouth. Chew the food slowly. Notice its texture and taste. Notice the sensation of chewing. Chew the food until you sense it is fully prepared for its easy digestion. Savor the food taking longer to chew it than you might normally do.
Notice your feelings and impulses while chewing your food. Do you find yourself wanting another bite before fully chewing the present bite? Gently bring yourself back to the awareness of this mouthful of food.
When you feel ready to swallow your food, bring your attention to the sensation of swallowing. Feel the sensation of “swallowing” your food.
Approach each mouthful in the same way. Staying focused on each bite as you take it in. Notice how much you are eating, how fast you are eating. Watch for the sensation of fullness. Notice any feelings that arise.
Fine-tune your awareness to notice the early subtle signs of “being full.”
What did you notice? Did you find you ate slower or less? Did you notice feelings that affected your eating. As you slow down and bring your awareness to what you are doing in the moment you may notice feelings you weren’t aware of before.
Be aware of these feelings and their connection to your ability to concentrate on your eating.
Don’t be discouraged if your mind tends to wander. When your mind becomes scattered or unfocused, use a mini body scan like focusing on feeling the air as it flows through your nose to come back to the present moment of eating.
Thich Nhat Hanh, poet and Zen master, says, “Mindfulness is at the same time the means and the end, the seed and the fruit.” Mindfulness is the seed as it helps build concentration. It is the fruit as it brings awareness in the moment. It is a life fully lived.
As you practice mindful eating, you build your concentration (much as exercise builds muscle). Concentration helps you bring your mind to the present, to what is happening right now.
When aware of what is happening right now, you are not worrying about the past or the future. You can appreciate your food: its flavor, texture, and nourishment. You are aware of subtle cues that you are full or had enough.
Use mindfulness eating with a full meal or just with one mouthful of food. The more you practice mindfulness eating the more natural it becomes and the more mindfulness becomes a way of living.
Enjoy your food and eat for a healthy YOU. Make mindful eating part of your weight loss plan and a step toward optimal natural health. Tune-In to your food with mindful eating.
Sources and Resources
Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness Meditation: Health Benefits of an Ancient Buddhist Practice,” Daniel Goleman and Joel Gurin, eds, Mind Body Medicine: How to Use Your Mind for Better Health (New York: Consumer Reports Books, 1993).
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Handbook on Meditation,(Boston: Beacon Press,1987).