Mindful Eating

We are a busy society. We have jobs, families, friends and social engagements that make up our day-to-day lives. Eating is a huge part of our reality, survival no less and we often forget how lucky we are to be receiving such an abundance of food. Contemplating our meal can create compassion for those less fortunate, gratitude for those who cultivate our food and appreciation for those who dedicate their time to preparing it. When we take the time to consider our food, we change our views and in turn the decisions we make.

We eat at restaurants for a multitude of reasons; rush through a business luncheon, have an uninspiring fridge, or are out to share that special occasion with loved ones. Not to say that any reason is better then another, but life is distracting and it’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day intricacies of life. We forget to savour what is right in front of us, our meal. Awareness can start before we even choose what to eat.

When you think about what you’re going to eat, take the time to think about where the food comes from, making a mental list of all the obvious ingredients first. Visualize as many details as you can, starting with the plants growing from a seed, and then sprouting from the earth. Picture the uptake of nutrients from the ground and intake of energy from water and sun. How much time must pass for one bunch of spinach or lettuce to develop through its life cycle? See the animal in its habitat, a field, the ocean; it’s day-to-day life and how it came to be here. Then imagine the processes surrounding all the less obvious ingredients, olive oil, salt and spices. Then move to the human lives that took part in every ingredient, the farmers, the pickers, the producers, the transport to the kitchen and the very person placing the food in front of you and how each of these lives have a role in the experience your having of eating.

Look at your meal; notice the different colors, textures and smells. Feel your mouth starting to salivate. When you take a bite, taste which flavor arises first, second, third, fourth. Notice the food giving way to your mouth and teeth, how long it takes to break down each mouthful and your body’s natural reaction it has to chew and swallow. Keep your attention on the eating process and savour it. The difference it makes in your awareness in and around you is undeniable. Culinary arts make eating one of the most lavish joys out of one of the basic necessities of life.

Nourishing an awareness of eating induces a deep appreciation of our food. Many less fortunate all around the world and in our very own community don’t get to experience such variety and abundance of food. Take the time to ask, how do the decisions I make affect how food is cultivated? How would I like to see the food industry work on a National and Global scale? What can I do now to make a difference in my own community? Although these questions may at times seem like overwhelming issues, one only needs to reminded of a quotation on a Main Street wall: “ Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  ~ Margaret Mead.

Interested in more information? CBC Passionate eye did a recent documentry called Food Inc. Which will be posted to watch free for 30 days past the air date.  www.cbc.ca/documentaries/passionateeyeshowcase/2010/foodinc/