Mindful Eating: How to Eat Like a Yogi
Mindful eating is the non-diet antidote to all the new diets and super foods that seem to be springing up daily. With these new, sometimes contradicting and misleading, information and messages, it can be rather difficult to really understand and choose which foods to eat, and how much. Paleo, vegetarian, raw food diet, all offer myriads of benefits, but they’re not always the right fit for everyone. So, before you commit to a certain dietary regime, we urge you to consider a very simple, but powerful, concept: eating with mindfulness.
[Mindfulness is] “deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside and outside yourself – in your body, heart and mind – and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment.” – Jan Chozen Bays, M. D. (Psychology Today)
What is Mindful Eating?
Deeply rooted in Buddhist teachings, mindful eating (also known as intuitive eating) is a practice of choosing food that both satisfies your taste and nourishes your body. It helps you develop an understanding of your natural responses (likes, dislikes) to food without judgment. Mindful eating also guides you towards being aware of your physical cues, not emotional, for hunger or satiety. Occasionally referred to as “anti-diet”, it encourages us to fully submit ourselves to the experience of eating – and relishing – our food. On a certain level, it is fair to say that eating with mindfulness is essentially meditating about food and eating.
Devotees of intuitive eating come from all walks of life, and they commit to it for various reason. However, the fastest growing group of followers are regular yoga practitioners, which isn’t surprising considering its meditative component. A recent study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shows that there is a strong connection between practicing yoga and mindful eating. Researchers at FHCRC hypothesize “that mindfulness – a skill learned either directly or indirectly through yoga – could affect eating behaviour.”
Eating is Meditating
In that sense, eating with mindfulness is a logical extension of yoga. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who popularised the concept of mindfulness in the contemporary Western world, might argue that it is eating mediation. Yoga teaches you to meditate and be self-aware in the present moment. Can eating be a part of your daily meditation? Absolutely! Take a moment and savour every bite of food you eat, pay attention to how your body reacts to it, and acknowledge how much you truly need to satisfy your hunger.
With our hectic and busy everyday lives, most of us eat mindlessly and hastily. What if we actually focus on eating, while we’re eating, to truly nurture our body and de-stress from the daily routine. Choosing a quiet and decluttered space to eat will allow you to bring your attention to the food and all its flavours. Ultimately, eliminating all distractions will prevent you from overeating.
This, however, doesn’t mean that mindful eating will turn you into a recluse. Intuitive eating is a long-standing tradition of Buddhist monks, and it is based on their earliest teachings. Now, centuries later, this concept has begun to seep into the modern world. Mindful lunch hour is routinely practiced at Google. In his article, Jeff Gordinier of the New York Times writes about his visit to the Blue Cliff Monastery, a Buddhist monastery in Hudson Valley, NY, during a “day of mindfulness” when common folk can join the congregation for lunch.
“What followed was captivating and mysterious. Surrounded by a murmur of clinking forks, spoons and chopsticks, the Blue Cliff congregation, or sangha, spent the lunch hour contemplating the enjoyment of spice, crunch, saltiness, warmth, tenderness and like-minded company.” So, why don’t you try it yourself? Challenge your busy friends, and invite your yoga comrades to a meditative dinner. Sticking to the idea of truly experiencing (new) food, you can hire a professional chef from At Your Table to prepare new delicacies from your personally curated menu.
Which Food is the Right Food?
“The question is not what are the foods to eat, in my mind,” said Dr. Michael Finkelstein, a holistic physician, in a radio interview. “Most people have a general sense of what the healthy foods are, but they are not eating them. What’s on your mind when you’re eating: that’s mindful eating to me.” You can eat a doughnut mindfully if you choose. Or maybe, halfway through, you’ll realise you’re full. Or maybe you just want a salad. Remember, this is not all-or-nothing affair. It’s all about truly experiencing food and savouring the moment.
“What is food for one (wo)man is poison for another” is the guideline when it comes to food. While many may consider yoghurt to be a healthy for your digestion as they contain live cultures; some people who have dairy intolerance or lactose intolerance will dismiss yoghurt instantly. Listen to your body’s subtle signals caused by certain foods and soon you’ll be your own nutrition expert.
Seasoned yogis will confess that introspection without judgment is the ultimate level of yoga. That’s a difficult task on the mat, but even more challenging at the dinner table. Yoga and mindful eating will teach you that there is no universally right or wrong way to eat, and every experience is unique. It is about learning to respect your body and tune in your inner wisdom.