Mindful eating – connecting with our food system

This short video was inspired by exercises from Dr. Jan Chozen Bay’s book Mindful Eating, which I had the pleasure of experiencing during a mindful eating weekend retreat at Great Vow Monastery and also at a professional conference sponsored by UCSD Center for Mindfulness. Over the years, I’ve had a chance to participate in various mindful eating exercises led by secular teachers (often healthcare professionals themselves) who studied with Theravada and Zen Buddhist leaders. Although food is an important part of many cultural traditions, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Buddhist communities who have so significantly shaped current clinical applications of mindful eating to this day.

Mindful eating provides us with a doorway into the present movement. We gain access to essential information about our emotional and physical state, to include our body’s preferences, hunger, and satiety (fullness) cues. Psychologists call this our “internal wisdom” or “appetite awareness,” but we might as well call it our true nature.

We were born mindful, intuitive, embodied eaters, but many of us have been conditioned out of these skills. Dieting, body shaming, food insecurity, systemic racism, and mental health issues can all negatively impact our relationship with food. In addition, many of us are disconnected from our food heritage and our ancestral food cultures.

Mindful, embodied eating is a life-long journey. With each bite, we are presented with an opportunity to nourish, connect, savor, and reclaim. As long as we are awake and breathing, we can practice awareness with our food.

In the SAVOR Project, we explore our experiences not only as eaters and growers, but we also acknowledge our place in the larger food system. We discuss concepts like food culture, food citizenship, and food justice. This comprehensive perspective, known as food literacy, is the perfect complement to a medicalized approach that has been historically concerned with individual food-related distress, disorder, and disease. Food literacy education serves as tools for both prevention and treatment. Everyone benefits from increased knowledge regarding our relationship with food.

Wherever you find yourself on your personal food journey, I hope you find the following exercise helpful. You can also watch this video on The SAVOR Project’s YouTube channel if you choose.

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