Mindful Meals

_MG_5482 copyBuddist Monk at Inle Lake Nga Phe Kyaung jumping cat monastery, Burma

Let’s talk a little about mindful eating. This blog is an extension from my last blog because meditation and mindful eating really do go hand in hand. For those of you who haven’t read my About page, I am a graduate student at Cal State LA and I am studying nutritional science. I decided to go back to school after a break because as we know by now, I am obsessed with food, but also because after seeing loved ones fall victim to disease and sickness I knew I wanted to help. I know that we can heal ourselves with food. In fact, not only did Hippocrates say “Let food be thy medicine. Thy medicine shall be thy food.” He also said, “Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal with food.”

I get very frustrated with the current obesity and diabetes epidemic in our country and around the world and I am very hopeful I can be a positive influence in changing people’s mindsets and attitudes around food. I also hope to help educate people about exactly what it is they are eating. That is why I am very interested in meditation and mindful eating.

Mindful eating comes straight from my Buddhist ancestors. The basic principles for mindful eating are that we need to take more time and go inward to examine our relationship with food. We need to ask ourselves questions and really listen for the answers. It is also about making food your friend, not your enemy. It is about creating a positive relationship with food and to understand that food can be nourishing and healing as opposed to a guilt-ridden punishment.

There are no diets in mindful eating. I know this philosophy works for me because diets never do. There is nothing that is taboo or off the menu. But when you eat mindfully, it is pretty rare to eat a bunch of junk all of the time. Why? Because if you are truly mindful, you also monitor how you feel after your meal. And when you eat pesticide-ridden, overly-processed, sugar-laden food, chances are when you check in with yourself, your self is screaming mad at you.

When we really listen to our bodies, they can be pretty good at telling us what we need. You know the moment you are thirsty because your mouth gets dry. You know when you are hungry because your tummy grumbles. But if you listen even more closely, often your body will tell you “I need veggies please!” or “Hey, pass the salt my electrolytes are low.” But it’s at hunger or thirst where people generally stop listening and go straight to auto-pilot. We are all so busy in our days and we have such little time, we often grab what is close and convenient even if we know what we are eating is horrible for our bodies.

But here is my theory: if we have time to answer a few texts, write a couple of emails, stop in at Starbucks for a coffee, or play a round of Words With Friends, we can also take two to five minutes to check in with our bodies. We can ask ourselves “Am I really hungry or am I just sad or bored? What does my body really need?” We can also take a few more seconds out of our day to truly eat. I am not talking about eating in front of the TV or the computer. I mean truly eating by sitting down, looking at our food, savoring every bite, contemplating the where our food came from and who grew it. We can take time to actually taste our food. Doesn’t that sound nice? There is much we can discover if we look inward for a second. I promise, if you try it, there are discoveries you will make about yourself that will surprise and delight you. There are things that will scare you or make you sad. But the important thing is to look. Not look away. Happy eating!

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