Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving: Make Every Meal a Meal of Gratitude and Mindfulness

Mindful eating is getting some attention recently as a weight loss tool. The unconscious eater is prone to over-eating, while the mindful eater, chews slowly and enjoys every bite. What isn't often included in our Western variation of mindful eating is gratitude.

Mindful eating is not just meant to make the process of eating a very conscious event, but it also helps us to be more aware of our food's origins. In addition, we should have a relationship to food that is not so fraught with love/hate, should I/shouldn't I? Wouldn't it be nice to have a healthy and respectful relationship to food?  We take our food for granted which allows this neurotic relationship.  Think about where it came from.  How it got to the store or the market and who all had to participate for you to have the food in front of you?  It is a sad state of affairs that some children are unaware that a carrot grew in the dirt, that hamburger comes from a cow, and even worse that the food in the box is a mish mash of often unknown origin!

Start by being really grateful for the meal in front of you, whatever it is, wherever you are. It doesn't need to be a formal prayer of thanks, any statement that recognizes how great it is to have a meal in front of you will do. You can evolve this into whatever you like. Occasionally, I like to thank everybody that was a part of some meal - if it came from my garden, I see that whole wonderful growing process. If it came from the store, who all helped it get to me? The farmer's market? Who is the farmer and what methods is she/he using to grow?  This way I am thankful for sunshine and rain, the bees, the workers, and so much more! It's really hard to be neurotic about the food I am eating when I am filled with so much gratitude!

Next, while you are eating, biting, chewing, allow yourself to enjoy the smells, the colors, the textures, the subtle flavors of each bite and be grateful for all this deliciousness, all this nutrition and health! This will allow for more enjoyment and more of the good feelings we all want to feel when we eat.  Begin your meal by looking at all the colors and shapes of your food.  Then smell your food.  The sense of taste is greatly enhanced by the sense of smell, so really take a nice big whiff!  Next, take a bite a vary, vary slowly let the food roll around in your mouth.  See if you can notice layers of flavors.  Now, say what you are thinking:  "Yum!  This is delicious!"  Or, maybe it needs something - a dash of salt or pepper, a pat of butter.  Make it perfect and enjoy!
Food is not so plentiful in other parts of the world.  Nor is there so much variety.  Maybe this is part of our country's inability to create healthy food relationships.  Try some mindful eating for a month, not every meal, but one meal per day and see how big the change will be! 

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