Friday, June 18, 2010

Zen and the Art of Eating

New York City. Calm and peaceful.  I am challenged to put these two phrases together in one sentence. Yet in the midst of this bustling city lies a refuge, a tranquil place to experience eating, to experience mindful eating. 

Upon entering the peacefully lit space I was instructed to take off my shoes. Ahh, already more comfortable here. My toes immediately said thank you. We were then escorted by a slipper-clad server to our candle lit table. The dark wood was at aisle  level, so we had to slip into our seats, feet now resting below ground level on a soft and comfy floor. The environment was aglow with the flicker of light. The server (who seemed so cozy in his pajama like attire) remained close at hand, but respectfully distant. The courses were beautifully presented both in their appearance, and in the relaxed way they were gracefully placed before us. And, I might add, the food tasted great. Nice texture, interesting and unusual spices and lovely balance to each plate.

Nice, you’re thinking, but what’s this got to do with my weight struggles? As I see it, weight management demands us to be mindful, to use our senses when we take in food—to see it, taste it, feel the texture in our mouths, smell the pleasing aromas, and perhaps even hear it (though that may be a stretch unless your meal is made up of chips). Otherwise, it’s as if you never ate it, it seems not to register.  

When we eat mindfully and enjoy our food, it is true pleasure.  We know what we have eaten. We do not rush to the next food item, unsatisfied from the last. Using your senses and eating mindfully also allows you to slow the pace, which helps you control how much you eat. By eating mindfully, you are giving yourself permission to truly enjoy your food whether it is chocolate cake or cherries.

Now I don’t expect that you are going to dine out in such pleasant settings frequently, but you could certainly start by making your home environment a pleasant place to eat. 

Maybe place some placemats or candles at the table?  (That is, assuming you are at the table and not at the couch dining!) Perhaps it’s time to separate your self from the television, computer or car while eating! Hardly conducive to mindfully eating. And please don’t wait until you are ravenous to begin eating or this will never work! And when you sit down to eat, don't forget to breathe!

By the way, the restaurant referred to is HanGawi pictured in the top photo.

Let me know how it goes and if focusing on eating mindfully changes anything for you!


  1. Hi Lori:

    Isn't it exciting how much that mindful eating is starting to hit the mainstream?

    Love your blog title.


    Jennifer Armstrong
    Armstrong Coaching

  2. Hi Lori,
    Any suggestions on how to "give yourself permission to truly enjoy your food"? Eating mindfully is challenging for me--thinking about all the food on my plate is the last thing I want to be doing at meals. Right now the permission I give myself to eat comes from my meal plan--you're telling me what to eat, and I trust you, so I follow the meal plan. But how can I get to the point where I truly believe that I deserve to not just eat the food, but enjoy it as well? Mindfulness has been helpful in other aspects of my recovery, but I'm still struggling to apply it at meals. I love the idea of setting the table with fancy plates--I think I'll try it at breakfast tomorrow!

  3. Hi Hannah,
    For starters, focus on what the benefits are of eating--what does nourishing your body do for you. You may need to start with very concrete things, like "not be light headed" or "stay out of the hospital". And when you idealize the eating disorder side of things, remind your self of just how miserable being in that place really is--the physical impact, the preoccupation, the social impact, etc. The enjoyment part may come a little later, once you start to see your own worth through the other treatments you do. But you're on the right track and making progress!