“Healthy mindful living is the ability to use knowledge, personal understanding and meditative techniques to foster peace and happiness in ourselves in the present moment,” says Lindsay Leimbach, a mindful living coach and teacher, and creator of the Centered Moment in Thousand Oaks.
“Our relationship to food is a central one that reflects our attitudes toward our environment and ourselves. As a practice, mindful eating can bring us awareness of our own actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations, and insight into the roots of health and contentment.”
According to owner/director of the Camarillo Yoga Center, Audrey Walzer, who also offers local science-based mindfulness courses, “Mindful eating is the first meditation we do (in the course) . . . because it provides a template for the way we approach our lives in general. When we are eating, what are we usually doing? Talking. Reading. Watching TV . . . pretty much anything but actually paying attention to our food and the process of eating it.”
She cites a 2010 study out of Harvard University, which shows that “as much as 47 percent of our day, our mind is actually on something else other than what we are doing right now,” she says. “In other words, almost half our life, we’re not really here!”
So where are we?
According to Walzer, “We are in the past, rehashing something that has just happened, or in the future, rehearsing for something that may or may not happen.” In mindfulness, this is called the automatic pilot of our lives, she says, “the habit we all have of living in our thoughts.”
Unfortunately, even remembered past experiences or imagined future ones can trigger a stress response in the body: “Release of the stress hormone cortisol, and adrenaline surges, heart rate and blood pressure go up, digestion decreases, and the fight/flight/freeze (mechanism is engaged)—the body is responding as though the situation is a real emergency, and yet it’s all in our head!”
Living and eating mindfully, then, can help focus us in the present moment. According to Waldman, the process of mindful eating can start when buying food. “Stroll through the grocery store and pay attention to all of the colors, scents, flavors and textures, and keep asking yourself what you really want and what you need to nurture yourself,” he says.
This is actually what the slow-food movement is all about. “People are taking more time to grow, pick food, prepare, and then take that same approach to cooking,” says Waldman. “The more you can immerse yourself in using all the senses while you’re preparing, eating, etc., and the more you can slow down (the process), the more it enhances the neurological functioning of your brain.”
The more you eat, the less flavor;
the less you eat, the more flavor.
— Chinese proverb
Imagine taking five minutes to enjoy a single grape. Use as many senses as you can. Pick it up, let it roll around in your hand and look at it like you’ve never seen a grape before. Explore how it glistens in the light; smooth green skin reflecting the shine. Sniff it and see if you can detect a scent. Press it gingerly between your fingers; feel its resistance.
Finally, place it in your mouth and explore it with your tongue and teeth. Rediscover the delights of this little morsel of sweetness by gently puncturing its skin and taking time to taste it fully. If possible, chew it at least 15 or 20 times before swallowing.
This is similar to a mindful eating exercise taught by Agoura Hills resident Mark Waldman, executive MBA faculty at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and creator of NeuroWisdom 101, a mindfulness training course.
The program teaches a neuroscientific approach to living, eating healthy and losing weight by applying mindfulness—a popular buzzword these days.
Written by ELA LINDSAY Photo by RICHARD GILLARD Hand Model: Karma Christine Salvato
To have a meal mindfully, he suggests: “Take 60 seconds to deeply relax the mind and body, yawn a few times, stretch, and in super slow motion, take your time to look at the food, smell it, hold a bit on your tongue and enjoy the subtle flavors. You’ll feel more satisfied, and you’ll eat less and enjoy it more.”