Food for Thought

One hundred and eight million people support the diet industry, 85% of whom are female. The average person makes four or more attempts at weight loss, helping the industry accrue $20 billion in annual revenue. Yes, that’s right, 20 billion dollars.

There’s the low-fat, no-carb, raw veggie, even the “skip breakfast and take a cold bath instead” diet (I’m not kidding) – all competing for our consumer support and paying up to $3 million for celebrities to sell the results in commercials.

This unfortunate phenomenon is a great example of the population seeking the answer outside of themselves rather than looking within. We think someone else can make a food plan for us that will provide fast, convenient, lasting results. We forget that in order to earn our way towards a better relationship with food, there has to be a shift in our state of mind.

A few years ago, I offered a program at Yoga Nook called Body WiZe. It was not a weight loss program, but rather a yoga, meditation and mindful eating workshop that focused on increasing the importance of food and slowing down. We encouraged participants to cultivate their intuition and self-restraint so they could make better choices without feeling deprived of foods they enjoyed.

Mindful eating brings you into the moment and reminds you to pause. In that pause, you can inquire: Are you standing in front of the pantry because you really are hungry, or because you are feeling anxious/bored/overwhelmed with your current activity and need a break?

Nourishing your body with food should take time. Primal man didn’t rush out, kill a bison and eat it on the way to the next hunt. A satisfying meal is one that appeals to all the senses – it is not only flavorful, but also looks colorful on the plate, smells tantalizing and feels textural as we eat it. Your whole body should be recruited into the meal, so every part of you knows you have eaten and becomes sated.

If we are in such a rush to eat that we are swallowing without even paying attention to what’s in our mouth, or so distracted as we eat that we forget we’ve eaten at all, how can we be satisfied or nourished by our food?

Here are some tips that we shared as part of the “Body WiZe” program:

  • Give yourself enough time to eat. Once prepared, a simple meal should take between 20 to 30 minutes to eat mindfully.
  • Reduce distractions. If you have to eat at work, turn off your computer – or even better, go for a walk to a local park bench. Just for the time you are eating, turn off the TV, radio or phone, and focus on nurturing your body with each mouthful. Experience the food fully.
  • Look at your food. As you prepare your food, keep in mind that it should be colorful and aromatic. Include a variety of textures to tantalize the tongue.
  • Chew more slowly. Put less in your mouth than usual and keep it there for longer, taking time to enjoy the flavors. Remember that digestion begins in the mouth.
  • Completely finish your first mouthful before you eat more. Your mouth should be empty between bites, ready to experience a new array of texture, flavor and temperature.
  • Remember: You don’t have to finish everything on your plate. Stop when you begin to feel full. You can also try using a smaller plate.

Practicing mindful eating is another way to bring yoga off the mat and into your life – mind, body and breath as one. Namaste.


Image credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr (CC)

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