Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Feb

Mindful Eating: The Art of Being Present at the Dinner Table

mindfuleatingQuestions: where were you at dinnertime last night? What did you eat? Was anyone else with you? Did you do anything else during the meal besides eat? How did your food taste? Did you enjoy your food? What did you think about as you ate? What mood were you in when you came to the table? When did you decide you were done eating? How did you feel after the meal? Some days we may be able to answer all of these questions. Other days not so much.

The truth is, there are days that we’re lucky to sneak in a meal at all. Children, meetings, travel, overtime, activities all mean we’re running from one thing to the next. Eating can be an afterthought – a chore inserted when possible and usually in tandem with at least one other activity. Even on the days when we sit down to a set table, we’re not assured a peaceful meal. The phone rings. UPS delivers a package. (Yes, aren’t you always the last house?) Little Suzy has a meltdown. Junior is feeding the dog from the table. There are multiple trips back to the kitchen for whatever was forgotten and a dozen or so fragmented conversations. If we’re eating alone, there are other kinds of distractions. Do we even bother sitting at the table? How about checking email or Facebook? A new magazine came today. Maybe I’ll just leaf through it while I have the chance. Whatever the case, the food itself quickly recedes into a mental background. The fork reaches our mouth. Maybe a taste registers, but we’ll have little recollection of the meal by the time our dishes reach the sink.

A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times ran an article “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought.” It follows the latest on mindful eating, a concept that has surged into public consciousness in the last several years with all manner of celebrity attention to it. Google now apparently organizes a monthly silent lunch at its headquarters. A few monasteries offer classes or retreats focused on mindful eating. As the article’s author suggests, taking a more conscious mindset to the table may be a pivotal tool in fighting our culture’s decidedly unhealthy relationship with food.

As a discipline, mindfulness training for the table becomes a meditation on the food itself. Participants learn to study their food – its feel, its weight, its appearance, its dimensions, its texture and taste. Chewing is slow and intentional. Time is spent on each morsel. Sometimes a meal for this purpose is all of three raisins or a single tangerine.

While I can’t say I’m sure I’d have the patience to get through one of those seminars, I commend the underlying purpose. We’ve relinquished the enjoyment of our food as we have other sensory and physical pleasures in our society. What’s sad is we don’t even realize it. We’ve written off the experience of honest to goodness dining. I’ll find myself at a good restaurant or a friend’s elaborate sit-down dinner celebration, and somebody (or bodies) will be checking their phones. (Is there an emoticon for this?) Our society seems to go ever further down the distractibility path, and our eating (like much else) is the worse for it.

The last couple of weeks I’ve written about the bad choices we tend to make and why. I’d tack this subject under the same header. The truth is, we sometimes make bad decisions because we give ourselves permission to “go unconscious,” as one expert in the article mentioned. We knowingly turn off all thought and let happen what will. It’s a “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” kind of mentality. In a bizarre persona splitting, we shoo the responsible self away. We send it off to the movies with a $20 bill and tell it to have a good time. At the end of the evening, it returns to find a tub of ice cream eaten or a chip bag empty. How could you have eaten the whole thing? Well, you took the night off, didn’t you? I’m all for a good Primal indulgence, but how is this owning our choices? Maybe we just don’t want to hear – to rationally witness – what’s really going through our subconscious in those hours.

Which brings me to my main point about mindful eating… Yes, I appreciate the idea of savoring the eating experience – taking back dinner, so to speak. Many of us need this. In the early years with my kids, I felt like I never tasted a single thing I ate because it was all about mach speed if you wanted any caloric intake that day. I love the idea of accepting it as a fully sensory, personally nourishing, and even thought provoking exercise. Who couldn’t use that? But here’s the crux of it for me. If you wait to start thinking about your food until the first bite enters your mouth, you might be too late to the mindful party.

What about reflecting on what you’re bringing to the table (or kitchen sink, desk, couch or wherever you feel drawn to eat at that moment)? What mental chatter, what mood is acting as overlay to your food choices and/or eating experience? In my estimation, this is where people trip themselves up most often. If it’s been a stressful day, if you’re anxious about something, if you’re feeling down, I’d recommend doing something other than eating until you can put aside the baggage and come to the table with simply an appreciative stomach. It might mean just enjoying the social experience of dinnertime with your family and reheating your food later. It might mean leaving the house and going for a brisk walk to clear your head. It might mean taking a hot bath and deciding on dinner later.

Dr. Cheung, co-author of Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, explains, “The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves.” I’d whole-heartedly agree on that. I’d say it probably accounts for a lot of problems people face. People used to prepare for dinner. It was a more formal experience than it often is now. From prehistoric times to even now on some occasions, we observed rituals however lavish or mundane. We washed. We dressed. We carved servings. We said thanks. It was a time to put aside other things. If ritual or will can’t achieve this today, it’s better to put food aside than consciousness and self-control.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. Let me know your thoughts on eating mindfully. Have a good end to the week.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. John Berardi from Precision Nutrition has his clients eat 10 raisins over the course of 10 minutes. There’s some slow, mindful eating for ya.

    Another good one is turn off the TV, computer, stereo, etc. while at the dinner table.

    Chris G wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • 10 raisins in 10 minutes? I’ll have to try this.

      Or, better yet, I’ll enjoy 1 block of 86% dark chocolate in ten minutes by taking 10 bites. That will be interesting. I am sure I’ll appreciate the flavors of the chocolate a lot more intensely.

      Primal Toad wrote on February 23rd, 2012
      • One block in ten minutes??? Amateur ;) My co-worker was telling me about monks who took one hour to finish a cookie. I then took it upon myself to complete this task using a 90% cocoa square :) Wow, I can’t believe I’m bragging about that.

        samui_sakana wrote on February 23rd, 2012
        • Ha! I mean, I could consume 1 block over an hour…. but as you kind of stated… it’s not really anything to brag about :)

          Primal Toad wrote on February 23rd, 2012
        • I just finished 1 block of 86% in 20 minutes :)

          Primal Toad wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • Ha! I have mine eat ONE raisin over 10 minutes :) whatever works to get folks
      to slow down I guess :)

      Gina wrote on February 25th, 2012
  2. NorfolkAndy wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • WTF? This is like something from The Onion. “Man eats real food, feels healthy.”

      Sarah wrote on February 23rd, 2012
      • Not surprising. *Life* seems like something from The Onion more and more each day.

        JC wrote on February 23rd, 2012
        • Well, mine seems more like Office Space, but I suppose there’s quite a bit of overlap.

          Sarah wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • Here’s more shocking news. Fats don’t kill you. Who knew? :)

      http://www.naturalnews.com/035033_cholesterol_disinformation_fats.html

      Katydid wrote on February 23rd, 2012
      • Pretty much everybody, and anyone with any common sense EXCEPT doctors, nutritionists, dietitians & the government’s USDA & FDA, Michelle Obama and everybody writing all the low fat diet articles in the women’s magazines that lead so many American women down a false path that leads to breat & all kinds of other cancers.

        Even Wikipedia has more scientifically correct info re cholesterol than most of those listed above. An actual short list would include Uffe Ravnskov, Udo Erasmus, Mary Enig,astronaut Dr. Duane Graveline who almost died when his NASA doctors made him start taking statins, and on & on.

        But my all time favorite source of info is the great Brian Peskin who has been teaching this fact to medical professionals for over 15 years. http://goo.gl/VjDF5

        cancerclasses wrote on February 23rd, 2012
        • Humans could not live or exist without cholesterol, I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia page, it’s highly educational, here’s just a bit:

          “Cholesterol, from the Greek chole (bile) and stereos (solid) followed by the chemical suffix -ol for an alcohol, is an organic chemical substance classified as a waxy steroid of fat. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes and is required to establish proper membrane permeability and fluidity. In addition, cholesterol is an important component for the manufacture of bile acids, steroid hormones, and vitamin D. Cholesterol is the principal sterol synthesized by animals, predominantly in the liver; however, small quantities can be synthesized in other eukaryotes such as plants and fungi.”

          There’s way more there than can be posted here so take a look there.

          cancerclasses wrote on February 23rd, 2012
        • Here’s a version of that article that has the same info but is more easily readable. http://goo.gl/T4OiF

          cancerclasses wrote on February 24th, 2012
        • Thanks for Peskin link, some very interesting reading, especially on omega 3.

          greg grok wrote on February 25th, 2012
  3. Good thoughts. I have found that shopping for food on a daily or every other day basis helps me be more mindful. Careful menu planning, selection of quality ingredients, etc lends itself to a more intentional attitude toward eating this way. Admittedly, the crazy, large- basket shopping for a week approach sometimes can’t be helped, and there are plenty of weeks I have to do it. I have found it’s just a little harder to view each meal as special when I do.

    Molly wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • Molly, I completely agree. Right now with two small children it’s hard to get to the store that often, but we’re looking forward to getting back to that mentality. When I lived in Germany, it seemed to be more how people approached meal preparation. Fresh markets were more of a thing there than they are here.

      Jen wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • I strongly agree with this. This is why I love living in a city like Chicago where I can walk and get groceries.

      From my brothers place it is a mile to Trader Joe’s and less than a mile to Whole Foods and 3 miles to the Farmers market. The most I’ll carry back is 2 bags but I prefer to have only one.

      When I am in Chicago I’ll go grocery shopping a minimum of 3 times per week. Sometimes I buy just a few things.

      When you only go once per week you tend to stock up on way too much. I understand that this is more convenient for families but grocery shopping can be FUN if you make it be. Go with the kids and go twice a week. It’s better than once in most cases.

      Primal Toad wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • $$$ BONUS: It cuts down on wasted produce and goods. For all the money you have to spend on fresh organics it’s a crime to let them go bad and end up in the compost pile!
      Since I live in Chicago as well, finding places on my way home or in walking distance is a snap. All I need is a backpack and my walk counts as “moving around at a slow pace”. :)

      NicoleK wrote on February 23rd, 2012
      • You live in Chicago? Near Wrigleyville by any chance? I don’t live there now but may stay with my bro for a number of weeks starting sometime in March.

        Are you a member of the Chicago meetup group? There are 144 members… you should join us!

        Primal Toad wrote on February 23rd, 2012
        • I live in Chicago too! What is this meet up that you speak of? I don’t know anyone else who does the primal thing!

          Cherice wrote on February 23rd, 2012
        • A meet-up group?!?! Awesome! I would totally be in for that! :) Hard to find people primal or even paleo. I was in Lincoln Park and now moved to Niles near Edison Park (first NW burb). How do I join?

          NicoleK wrote on February 24th, 2012
        • If it helps at all, I found primal/paleo eaters once I got into training at my local Crossfit gym. I highly recommend going to the crossfit website and looking for a box near you, it was the best best best way of meeting people who eat primal.

          Archie wrote on February 24th, 2012
        • Good call – I LOVE Crossfit. I do WODs on my own at my local gym and at home. With my schedule I need a gym close by and the Crossfit Gyms are in the city. Something to think about…
          I know they are hard-core paleo.

          NicoleK wrote on February 24th, 2012
        • Found the meet-up site…gotta love google!

          http://www.meetup.com/Primal-Chicagoans/

          NicoleK wrote on February 24th, 2012
        • Cherice and Nicole: Become a member here: http://www.meetup.com/Primal-Chicagoans/

          Primal Toad wrote on February 24th, 2012
      • Yep, I’ve gotten in the habit of buying my food every 2 or 3 days and the $’s I save has really become noticable even though the quality of food has gone up. I buy what I need, period! If I only have certain things on hand I know I will eat them. Recently I have spent less than $30 for 3 days of food; and that’s steak, chicken, eggs, bacon, plus loads of salad and veggies. Guess I’m a “serial perimeter shopper”!

        Damon wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  4. Hey Mark,
    Being mindful is an awesome Jedi saying. Being mindful of all our actions leads to a greater enjoyment of life as well as healthier and more positive decisions. Since going Primal 5 months ago, food and eating has taken on a whole other meaning for me. Mindfully choosing and preparing my meals has been an incredible and joyful experience. Not only do I have abdominals showing now, my strength and well being have gone through the roof! Many thanks for all the great info you put out there. I seriously went from not cooking at all to what I consider myself quite the primal wizard in the kitchen:)

    Ryan J Pitts wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  5. Oooh, this is a tricky one for me. Eating mindfully is difficult unless you are mindful in so many other aspects of life. I’m not sure you can separate it out. Lowering the chatter in general helps most for me.

    I agree that preparation is helpful and mindful preparation is also part of the process.

    We turn off all the distractions at dinner but then we have to attend to the kids! Sometimes, for parents, eating quietly is as much as we can manage. No matter where our brains are.

    Alison Golden wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • Yes, I have two special needs kids. The best I can do is eat with the most severely affected one in the kitchen so I can have alone time with her while the other, more demanding one, plays in the living room or eats something there. The former HAS to listen to Barney during her meal, so we interact over that. At least we can. That is when I stop. However I still gobble up my food because I am starved by that point.

      Julie wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  6. Beautiful post. Good reminder. My breakfast tends to be about what’s in the newspaper rather than what’s on my plate, although I am very mindful about what I put on the plate to begin with. Dinner is intentionally focused on communication with my housemate but I do a fairly good job of being aware of the food too. Other eating tends to be standing up in the kitchen.

    Harry Mossman wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  7. Since transitioning to primal, I find I’m more mindful of my food now that I cook it. Its so easy to turn off your brain while you microwave a lean cusine, but if your making something on the stove, and you turn off your brain, it’ll burn and you wont eat. Its also easier to appreciate the food as well. Its almost like a little victory every time I make something that is actually genuinely delicious, and I savor that knowledge that my future family will actually have a decent cook so they can eat delicious (healthy too!) meals. My parents never let us watch tv when we ate and we always had to sit at the dinner table. One of the best things my family did for me in my opinion.

    Maureen wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  8. It seems that if one is engaging in mindful eating 100% of the time, then becoming obese is near impossible.

    If we are conscious of every morsel we put in our mouth then how can one overeat? How can one load up on junk food?

    There are so many factors that cause folks to gain weight. Mindful eating is most definitely one of them.

    Thanks for the post Mark!

    Primal Toad wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  9. Do any other parents eat seperately from their kids? A parent always sits down at the table with our kids, a toddler and a first-grader, but we got so tired of the up and down to get stuff, table manner reminders, cajoling to eat their veggies, that we often save our eating for after they’re in bed and we can sit and enjoy our food and each other’s company. I’d say twice a week the whole family eats together, and other days due to my husband’s work schedule I sit with the kids and talk with them but eat later. It’s so much nicer not to shovel food in my mouth for the 30 seconds I’m free!

    Dtnmommy wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • Ha! Ha! I thought I was the only one that did that, we to have a different schedule, and some self employment which hours can vary, so I like you tend to sit with them while there eating and we eat later together. Otherwise by the time I get done running, reminding,and preaching to them to eat what is on there plate, my food is cold, and not so enjoyable.

      rdzins wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • I can totally relate to this. I sit down with the kids as they eat, but do not eat with them. Occasionally, I might clean the kitchen while they eat, but still try to make conversation with them. Multi tasking is just a fact of life for parents.

      My husband and I like to be relaxed when we eat–and that’s usually after the kids are in bed.
      On the weekends, we will usually eat our meals together. These meals tend to be really enjoyable. We talk, laugh, and let the kids entertain us with their stories. I wish we could do it every day.

      Sabrina wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • Oh boy, eating with the kids is a huge stressful event these days. I think I might try eating later with my husband. I get tired of eating my hot food cold! And like you said, all the ups & downs, reminding of table manners, etc…

      Valerie B wrote on February 24th, 2012
    • No! We tried that and gave it up. I found that when we ate at different times, our kids manners went out the window and complaints about the food went up. When we eat together, they see us having the same food and enjoying it (no fantasies of mom and dad noshing on mac and cheese, French fries, mounds of ice cream, or other unhealthy fare when they are in bed). They also get to watch our table manners inaction and learn from example. I just decided that a few years of cold supper is part of parenting.

      I do, however, try to get everyone settled at the table with what they need and say a blessing before I fill my own plate. Then I can warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave if I need to before sitting down. We tell stories around the table so everyone has time to take a few bites as the others add a portion to the story. I also instituted the rule that Mom gets to eat before anyone else gets seconds, gets dessert or leaves the table. I’ve also tried to teach mindful eating by having us all take one bite at the same time, then takes turns describing what it tasted like, felt like, and if it was good or bad. (Admittedly, that’s actually more for my husband than kids because he’s always rushed through eating and tends to binge on bad things at times, so I’m trying to sneak in a few lessons to slow him down!)

      Decaf Debi wrote on February 24th, 2012
      • We often let the kids eat when they are hungry and eat when we are hungry. However, whenever the kids are eating we are at the table with them. I agree that it’s a great way to keep track of their manners and help them eat some of the foods they may not want to eat.

        I would say we eat all together as a family only a couple times a week (and by that I mean all of us eating at the same time). It’s nice but so is sitting at the table, watching the kids eat and just talking with them.

        Happycyclegirl wrote on February 24th, 2012
  10. My first thought (after reading the title) was why is dinner getting picked on? I’m reading blogs/articles at my desk while shoveling down leftovers for lunch!

    I agree with many of the above comments above regarding increased mindfulness of things I cook…

    Growing the ingredients takes mealtime mindfulness to another level entirely… even if it is just the herbs you season your stew with.

    Primal Texas wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  11. We’ve been fairly mindful of our food for a long time, and since going Primal we are extremely so. We talk about it, shop together, and cook dinner at home most nights. Now that I truly understand the “body as my temple” mantra, I see food as elements helping me thrive.

    If I am stressed out when I come home from work, I hit the pillow for a short nap. That always helps.

    HillsideGina wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  12. Mach speed, not “mock speed”. ;)

    glorth2 wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • I actually took it as an intentional misspelling joke, given how crazy and often humorous meals are with little ones. With a 2- and 5-year-old, I know all about that!

      Jen wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  13. Just started eating lunch in my office kitchen at the table instead of at my desk. Actually just got done frying up some bacon and eggs for breakfast at the office. I love my job (and my job’s kitchen).

    samui_sakana wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  14. I liked the part about needing to be mindful of our food well before the meal. I took that to mean being mindful of the selections we make in our food. I totally agree that is where the process needs to start. Having quality grass fed beef and produce in the house makes it so much easier to create a clean and delicious meal and removes temptations to eat out or choose “fast” foods that aren’t good for you.

    Terese wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  15. Mindful eating is one reason that I like to go out to dinner by myself now and then. I like to have the time to enjoy the food with no distraction of a dinner companion and no worries about prep or cleanup. It’s amazing how different the experience of food can be when you really pay attention to every bite.

    Owly wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  16. This was certainly a thought provoking post. Back when I was a “real mom”, all meals were eaten at the table. As a truck driver, all meals must be carefully planned or I end up eating hamburger patties and wilted side salads. My only opportunity for people time is in a restaurant. I often find my food too cold by the time I take time to put food in my mouth! I use this time to tell other drivers about BP. Obesity and ill health are rampant in the industry. Statistics show that just BEING a driver reduces our life-span by 11 years. Mindful eating is essential to controlling our weight and improving health.

    TruckerLady wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  17. This is important not just in eating, but in life. I think people have sacrificed a lot in the name of convenience. All to retire so they can finally relax… something they could have done their whole lives if they simply learned to appreciate what they had!

    Daniel wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  18. I learned about mindful eating in a course called Mindfulness Based Stress Relief. I still practice it lunch time, especially when the weather is warm. I will go out into the field beside my office and just eat lunch. It’s great.

    I have used the same approach for tea/coffee breaks, too. I go some place quiet and just drink my tea/coffee.

    Big T wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  19. Should I feel bad about reading this post while eating my lunch?

    JC wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  20. I’m in the process of doing my own IF experiment using an 8 hour or smaller eating window each day. I may reduce it on down to 5-6 hours for while. During this time, I have been eating 95+% of my daily protein intake at one meal… most of the time it’s a very generous portion of 1 lb. or more of home raised grass fed beef (or 8+ backyard eggs or fish) sometimes with vegetables and sometimes all by itself. The remaining 1 or possibly 2 meals/snacks almost exclusively consist of high quality fats and vegetables… maybe some occasional fruit. Sometimes my first meal of the day is breakfast with a whole can of coconut milk mixed with a slightly larger amount of coffee! If I do that, I can get by with only eating my 1 large meal of protein and vegetables later in the day & I am completely and totally satisfied… if not stuffed! Anyway, I think that it is likely very important to be extremely mindful of what you are eating when you are doing your own versions of IF.

    TJ wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  21. Often wondered this – which do you think would be better for you:

    Eating junk food in a mindful way, taking your time, savouring it, chewing it properly, being relaxed, calm and content? or

    Eating a nutritionally balanced meal, but chucking it down your neck without chewing in 2 seconds, whilst in front of your work pc, up against a deadline and stressed to your eyeballs?

    Sian wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • What a wonderful thought-provoking concept!!

      I don’t know that I’d ever thought of which would be better. At first you’d think the healthy meal would be of the best benefit regardless of the manner in which it was eaten. But after doing some reading and just thinking about it, I’m now going to vote for the fast food meal eaten in a nice, calm stress-free manner would be the best way to go! Regardless of the content of the food, I tend to think that they way we eat is just as important – if not more so – than what we eat.

      Has anyone eaten a so-called healthy meal in a total frenzy panic state and felt like crap afterward? Been there, done that—-

      Thanks for bringing up the question!

      PrimalGrandma wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  22. @Sian….I would definitely think your first option to be the superior one. When I was recovering in hospital for anorexia, an important, yet difficult task was to eat what we considered a “non-safe” food…one that we had personally eliminated from our diets…for whatever reason..Eating only one or two bites, with mindfulness to the taste, texture was difficult, but awakening…to truly appreciate it and not be fearful of it is in itself nourishing..the body and soul. “Scarfing” down “allowed” or “permitted” foods, however, removes one from experiencing food…or at least respecting it. Keen observation Sian.

    Donna wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  23. Mark, thank you so much for posting this! When I was going through rehab for my eating disorders a few years back, mindful eating was a HUGE part of the recovery process. They taught us how to be mindful with our food by being present to take in all the colors, smells, textures, and even what we were feeling in that moment along with what we were thankful for. It really taught me a lot about how there is so much more that is encompassed with eating than chewing. It’s really a time to listen to your body and its perceptions, what thoughts your having, to enjoy those around you, and to really appreciate and respect your food and what it is doing for you and your body.

    Kayla wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  24. I can’t find the article right now, but I remember reading about a meditation class where they were served chocolate and focused on the taste and texture, holding it in their mouths for quite a while. It seemed like a good way to make dark chocolate even more intense.

    For anyone who is interested in learning a bit more about being present I’d recommend looking up Mindfulness in Plain English. It’s a pretty in depth guide to meditation that is available for free online.

    Erik Wyckoff wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  25. Great post!

    Lydia wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  26. Mindful eating is a very Budhist practice, it brings awareness to such things as who brought your food, and what conditions arose to make the meal possible, along with the mere mechanical process of eating…paleo in my opinion is a mindful food practice, as choice of everything on the plate is filtered to make this a healthful and mostly delicious one. John kebatt Zinn and the raisin awareness practice was very revealing about the normal way we approach eating, but the Sisson approach trumps it as just about all aspects of the process are considered…even to the point of considering the avoidance of considering it…

    BT wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  27. Just read this while eating dinner… FAIL

    Andy wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • No Fail Andy! You have awareness now! Huge difference….I say well done. Awareness is quite simply the key.

      Gina wrote on February 25th, 2012
  28. What a wonderful thought-provoking concept!!

    I don’t know that I’d ever thought of which would be better. At first you’d think the healthy meal would be of the best benefit regardless of the manner in which it was eaten. But after doing some reading and just thinking about it, I’m now going to vote for the fast food meal eaten in a nice, calm stress-free manner would be the best way to go! Regardless of the content of the food, I tend to think that they way we eat is just as important – if not more so – than what we eat.

    Has anyone eaten a so-called healthy meal in a total frenzy panic state and felt like crap afterward? Been there, done that—-

    Thanks for bringing up the question!

    PrimalGrandma wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  29. Oh gosh I so go unconscious when I eat. Particularly if I am hungry when I start, it seems I’ve my body races to see how much food I can shovel down before my brain catches up with what is going on. Even if it is all primal, too much food not chewed properly is not good for you.

    I’ve noticed that small child’s take an age to eat anything. My friend’s 2 year old takes an hour to drink a cup of milk. He musts sits there contemplating and taking the occasional sip.

    Nick wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • * children, not child’s. I’m blaming autocorrect!

      Nick wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  30. Best possible way to eat: rustic log cabin in the woods, good company, no electricity, water from the well etc.

    With nothing to do each day but sit in the sun, walk, clean the cabin, potter etc, each meal was eaten outside in the sun overlooking the lake and took about 2 hours to finish. In fact, each meal took so long finish, often by the time we’d cooked, eaten, cleared up, it was almost time for the next one!

    Nothing beats chatting and laughing in the sun, whilst picking at food, with no agenda and no daily ‘to-do’ list. The food was eaten slowly over the course of those 2 hours. Just a few days of living like that and you start to feel great.

    Plus when you’ve nothing else to do all day, even the washing up becomes something interesting to do and a ‘mindful’ activity. ‘Mindful washing-up’ – never thought I say those words together.

    Sian wrote on February 24th, 2012
  31. My husband just came home from a trip to Vietnam with a set of chopsticks. He had read the NYT article Mark mentioned at the start

    Gydle wrote on February 24th, 2012
  32. The banquet is in the first bite. First heard of “mindful eating” in a Zen primer written by Thich Nat Hahn. Recommended that we try and make a single raisin last five minutes… crazy/cool for a recovering food-inhaler.

    sheepman wrote on February 24th, 2012
  33. Dinner (or supper as we call it here in Texas) is a great time for me and my beautiful wife to just sit and enjoy each other’s company as we enjoy the blessing of a good, healthy meal. We both like to focus on each bite and think about the flavors as we chew -chewing each bit as long as it has flavor! This also promotes good digestion I would think. The bonus is, there are few things more SEXY than watching my HOT wife enjoy a bloody steak -one SLOW bite at a time!! OK, I’m setting up a home lunch . . . :~)

    Justin wrote on February 24th, 2012
  34. I have been Paleo for about two years–initially for health reasons, not for weight loss or fitness. Regardless, I did not experience the loss of the “last 10 pounds” that everyone seems to experience. I realize couple months) that much of this is because while I was eating primal, I was overeating. My sister and I talked about turning off our “consciousness” and just eating, then dealing with the consequences later.It is a bad habit we both seem to have.

    This article was a good reinforcement for me that I need to tune back in, and remain aware and appreciative of each bite.

    Sarah wrote on February 24th, 2012
  35. Hmm, I used to eat with chopsticks to slow down my eating, but for the interest of satiation signals. Of course I got fast at that too.

    These days I don’t eat mindfully but it takes me a very long time to eat since it hurts if I bolt my food. However, I can’t seem to shut off the chatter, and would actually leave a meal if something distracted me. I find that it’s better to have a show running or a blog page up.

    I do control what I put on my plate, though.

    Kelekona wrote on February 24th, 2012
  36. I love the idea of an “appreciative stomach” and will share it with my clients. It’s also worth noting that healthy digestion just can’t happen if we aren’t calm and focused on our food while eating.

    Debra wrote on February 24th, 2012
  37. A yoga instructor once told me that the most difficult pose is “corpse pose”, where you relax, stare at the ceiling. She said the tendency for our minds to wander is almost overwhelming for some.

    I often find the same concern when sitting to dinner. A little trick I use that helps me is to look down at my lap, breathe deeply three slow breaths, and ask “what am I doing?” For whatever the reason, it always seems to ground me, and allow me to be more mindful of what I’m eating.
    Thanks for sharing this, Mark.

    Dr. Mike Tremba wrote on February 24th, 2012
  38. nice post. there is so much noise in the world today, stopping to actually taste, savor and enjoy real foodshould be a pleasure enjoyed on a regular basis.

    chuck cotton wrote on February 24th, 2012
  39. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of mindful eating, mindful preparation, and just being as mindful as possible in all things. I don’t know when I started making that conscious effort to be mindful, but it’s been with me for quite a few years. I have even noticed that if my husband eats his dinner in front of the tv, he almost every time goes back for a snack later, sometimes right away claiming he didn’t get enough main dish. But when we make time to eat at the table, eat slower, and are more focused on the meal, he snacks less. Also, since we discovered the PB and we’ve been spending more time preparing new foods, or old foods in new ways, I’ve found that even just the preparation process can be very peaceful and meditative.

    Jessica wrote on February 24th, 2012
  40. Great look at Mindful eating Mark. Thanks!

    Sometime we all have to go faster than we want or concentrate on the kids vs our food and so on. I believe knowing what you are doing at the moment and doing that with awareness is the point.For example: when feeding a table full of kids under 5 do it with awareness, when a moment arises to have a bite of food for yourself be aware of that. Really this changes life for the better in so many ways.

    Gina wrote on February 25th, 2012

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