What does it mean to be a mindful eater?
“Don't chew your worries, your suffering, or your projects. That's not good for your health. Just chew the string bean.” - Thich Nhat Hanh For many health and wellness magazine, the focus of food and nutrition
“Don’t chew your worries, your suffering, or your projects. That’s not good for your health. Just chew the string bean.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
For many health and wellness magazine, the focus of food and nutrition is always about what we eat and less attention is paid to the question of how we eat it. There are growing research suggesting that changing our practices around meals such as the concept of Mindful eating (concept with roots in Buddhist teachings) gives us a better cue for eating – like signaling our bodies hunger instead of emotional ones like eating for comfort.
This wasn’t my first time attending a mindfulness session. In the past, it was just an interesting and rejuvenating experience for me personally. But recently, through a PAUSE initiative mindfulness lunch session arranged by The Wellness Report, I’ve gotten pretty profound realizations and experiences. The difference this time round is, I could relate to some collective phenomenon that is happening in our modern society.
While it seem like a cool concept of combining your meal with mindfulness meditation principles, I find that it is more than just a concept. It is a living practice. And it can be extended to everything we do in our daily lives.
I guess the name is fitting for The Wellness Report’s initiative; PAUSE. This slowing down process helps me deconstruct several of our human conditionings. One of them is the conditions of expectations. For example, when we were served the bread with the given dips, most of us would go with what is given. While some others have finished the previous dish and moved on to the bread, I am still in the process with the previous dish which is the hot papaya salad. Then it dawned upon me why not try the bread with the sauce of the salad? And interestingly, the hot sensation of the salad was turn into a new experience of lingering sweetness and lightness with the bread! Also, why must each dish be treated in isolation of consumption and not linked or integrated with the one before and after?
Again, see how our conditionings show up, including this insight itself! That relates a lot to how we navigate our lives.
When we pause, we can choose rather than being chosen by circumstances
Not a proclaimed foodie, I know there’s a purpose and intention behind the design of every dished being served and there could probably be an ideal artful way of appreciating the food to honour that intention.While honouring that intention, I noticed how we are also constrained by our own rules and judgments of how things should be done.
These slow and intentional eating can truly develop a healthier food culture and while we first ask if there is even time for this – mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing affair but a daily effort to change how we eat – slowly, no distractions like TV/phones, choosing better food options, and truly savour the flavours. One study found that mindful eaters showed to have lower body weights, greater sense of wellbeing and fewer symptoms of eating disorders.
Speaking of intention, in this slowing down practice, I noticed my intentions behind subtle movements; from lifting the utensils to the energy I gave to the motion of slicing and cutting. It is interesting to watch how delight can transit to impatience, boredom and into curiosity and so on. Relating back to real life application, I realized people are more intrigued when I communicate subtleties and being specific about them than simply giving a generic description.
“Mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing affair but a daily effort to change how we eat – slowly, no distractions like TV/phones, choosing better food options, and truly savour the flavours.” – Alfred Chung
The shift lies in the subtle
Yet, it is a power we so often take for granted in the speed and convenience of life. The ‘menu’ card that was given at this session was interestingly a curated set of questions for us to take a reflective and introspective look to all areas of our well-being. We went through the physical wellbeing questions as we eat, the mental, the emotional and it was one meal that got me thinking with all honesty about what state of being i am in. We are now humans of doings, we are hardly beings anymore. If that makes sense.
Near the end of the session, I could feel my heart pounding strongly. At first experience, it feels like anxiety. But when I observed this sensation further, I feel it is a life force. Whether it is joy, energy or excitement, it doesn’t matter. It is simply a rhythm and a beat that life is showing through my body. I strongly believe it is an energy and presence for living a great life, which we are lacking these days.
Lately, I’ve seen and observed a lot of people around me losing focus and their ability to stay present in any given situation or interaction. You see the streets filled with people on their mobile devices more so than people talking to one another, even with their loved ones! Sometimes, when I talked to people in a social setting or networking, people tends to zone out quite frequently or they seem impatient to continue the conversation.
When our presence wanes, our quality of life suffers. Even “branded” experiences become bland.
Thus, developing our presence is the key, if we ever want to breakthrough that clutter and stuckness we are in, and it can all start with the meals we have in our day, the time we fuel our body and nourish our wellbeing.
I’d love to know your experience like in mindful eating. Has it been something you practice for awhile or something you have an inkling to start? Share in the comments below. Who knows, we may be dining together in the next session with The Wellness Report as how they always have a way in bringing people together in a beautiful setting and intention.
Photo: Erwin Tan