Friday, June 05, 2009

Elisha Goldstein - Can Mindful Eating Change Your Life?

Nice post - and good advice.

Mindfulness and Psychotherapy

Can Mindful Eating Change Your Life?

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
June 3, 2009

Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent-all must be tasted.
Chinese proverb

Whether you are a food lover or someone who wishes they could just take a food pill and get on with their day, food is an inevitable part of our lives and we can learn to relate to it in a way that supports our mental and physical health. More and more people are beginning to learn of a new way to relate to food whether they love food or not. Surprise, surprise, I’m talking about Mindful Eating. Here’s how to engage in it. While there is a lot of fervor over the benefits of mindful eating, my biggest suggestion is always to trust your own experience.

Here’s how to do it (This is an excerpt from the upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, New Harbinger Publications, February 2010 by Bob Stahl, Ph.D. & Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.):

When practicing mindful eating you can choose to intentionally be aware of the food you are eating during any meal or snack. Begin each meal by carefully noticing your food choices before you eat them. Notice the colors of the food, the shapes, and the fragrance.

You can also reflect for a moment on the number of people who may have been involved in bringing the food to your table; the farmers, truckers, grocery workers, and others who’ve made it possible. In this way, you deepen your appreciation for the interconnectedness we all truly share. Below are five mindful reflections inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh that I’ve found to be meaningful and supportive when sitting down to eat.

  • May we receive this food as a gift from the earth, the sky and all the living beings and all their hard work that made it possible for me to nourish this body and mind.
  • May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
  • May we recognize and transform our unskillful ways, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
  • May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet and reverse the process of global warming.
  • May we accept this food so that we may nurture our strength to be of service to others.

In practicing mindful eating, we’re taking the first bite to our lips, opening them, and taking the food into your mouth. Pay careful attention to what happens next. How does it feel in your mouth? Notice whether there are thoughts, judgments, or stories arising. Try to keep the focus on the direct sensation unfolding as you begin to chew. Notice the taste. Is it sweet, sour, earthy, bitter, or something else? Is the texture smooth, grainy, chewy? Does the taste change as you continue chewing? Notice how the mouthful disappears, how swallowing happens. Just acknowledge this as it occurs and let it be.

The Center for Mindful Eating also is doing a lot of professional work to help people change their relationship to food. Which food is often integrated into issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Try this practice with your next snack or meal. Share with us below what you noticed or what thoughts came up. Your interaction below provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

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