4 Golden Rules Of Mindful Eating
Having been a natural foods chef and meditation teacher for the past 30 years, I’m what you could call an Ayurveda enthusiast. I so deeply love and resonate with this ancient healing tradition whose principal medicine is food. I learned these mindful eating rules in a class I took on spice blends and Ayurvedic healing several years ago. These guidelines have helped my clients reclaim sanity, choice, and dignity in their eating habits while cultivating deeper self-forgiveness.
Eat Food Prepared by Loving Hands in a Loving Way
This rule is simple but not always easy. In the words of food journalist Michael Pollan, “If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it’s made in a plant, don’t.” If you’re chronically dining on packaged foods or takeout, chances are human hands barely even touch what you eat. What kind of prana can you draw from such “food”—or rather, “food-like products”—that are made by production machinery? Treat yourself to genuine nourishment. Visit a farmers’ market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group, learn to cook a few simple things on your own, or ask friends and family to cook for you.
Only Eat Until Two-Thirds Full
The Japanese have a saying, “hara hachi bu”, which means “eight parts out of 10 full”. The French, when they are finished eating, say “Je nais plus famme,” meaning, “I no longer have hunger.”
What do we say in in our super-sized, all-you-can-eat buffet culture here in the U.S.?
We have been conditioned culturally to disconnect from our satiety cues—the messaging highway between our brain and our belly that signals us to stop eating. In Ayurveda, the stomach is regarded as a cooking pot, and the digestive metabolism—known in Sanskrit as agni—fires up the pot. When a cook makes a pot of soup, she has to leave space at the top of the pot, or else the agni doesn’t properly circulate, and the soup cooks unevenly. The same is true in our digestion. If we overeat, we can’t digest properly, and that produces what in Ayurveda is called ama, or toxic by-products, which give birth to degenerative disease. So the practice of mindful eating means reconnecting to that moment when our belly and brain say, in unison, “Enough.”
Take Food with Self-Confidence
Allow yourself to enjoy your food wholeheartedly. So often we eat from a place of conflicting emotions: “I want it”, “I know I shouldn’t have it,” “Who cares, I want it anyway”.
What would it be like for you if, instead of saying to yourself, “I’ll never eat cake”, you could come to a place of being at 100 percent choice around eating the cake, and either enjoy it wholeheartedly or else let it be?
Food Should be Taken in One Place
In the Zen tradition there’s a saying, “When you eat, just eat; when you sit, just sit.” The ideal posture of eating is sitting comfortably, with your focus on the food.
If, by contrast, we’re eating while driving, in the Ayurvedic view that combination increases vata, or wind, which can extinguish agni. When we take food in one place, we might first encounter boredom, discomfort, and the strong impulse to check our email or read the paper. If this is so for you, I invite you to lean into the sharp edge of those feelings. Any process of healing demands of us that we enter the sanctuary of such feelings without needing to push them away. Breathing and walking through the boredom and discomfort, we discover not only that we can survive—we meet a part of ourselves that has been waiting for us for a long, long time.
If these rules inspire you, practice them to the best of your ability for 7 days, and notice how your koshas, or layers of being, begin to settle themselves into a more integrated and harmonious relationship. And please post a comment. I’d love to hear about your experience.
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