Chances are you are like millions of American– eat more, not less– when stressed. Stress increases cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite. And we all know: the cookie jar, noisy chip bags, and drive thrus seem to be inevitable consequences once the cortisol levels start raging in your body.
Or are they so inevitable?
Stress eaters, meet Cognitive Behavioral Mindfulness. It takes best of humanism and the best of cognitive behavioral psychology and applies them to your eating habits, today, in the midst of the immense stress and frenzy of life.
Released earlier this month, the landmark book, Savor Mindful Eating, Mindful Life looks at exactly this—the relationship between food and stress—and how mindfulness can rescue you. World renowned Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hahn and medical doctor Lilian Cheung speak to nutrition, food, dieting, and how the psychotherapeutic and spiritual practice of mindfulness can save you from countless extra pounds, unsatisfied yearnings and the devastating physical effects of stress.
The foundation of the book rests on the following assumptions regarding food consumption:
The Seven Practices of Mindful Eating:
1) Honor the food put before you.
2) Engage all six senses in the body.
3) Serve in modest portions always.
4) Savor all bites, even small and chew thoroughly.
5) Eat slowly; it will help you avoid over-eating.
6) Don’t skip any meals; even if you have eaten poorly in a previous meal.
7) Eat a plant based diet; its good for your health and good for our planet
The good news for food lovers is that it boils down to the principle: savor. Do nothing else.
Want to try it?
Grab something from a fruit bowl. Apple, orange, or whatever suits your fancy. And let’s practice. Wash the fruit and dry it. Go ahead; twirl it around in your hand for a minute or so. There are many delightful aspects of eating wholesome, natural fruit.
Next: We are solely going to practice eating the fruit. So, find yourself a comfy chair. Fruit is full of sweetness and beauty. We want to be sure we enjoy all of these facets by focusing solely on eating it.
Next: Pick up the piece of fruit again. Ask yourself—What kind is it? How does it smell? What does the texture feel like? These questions are designed to develop present-centered gratitude and amazement about the nature and origin of food.
Next: When you are focused on the apple and the eating process—give it a bite. Slowly chew it, breath deeply, and remain focused on all of the elements of the process of eating, tasting and feeling the apple.
Above All: Continue to refocus your mind on chewing, eating, and nourishing your body. Each time you find your thoughts or attention distracted, choose to refocus on the process of eating with gentleness and understanding.
This vivid description of eating the fruit is known as mindfulness. It is a state of immersion, of full presence in the living moment. It is living in the here and now. Refocusing and full emersion in the present moment can be done with any situation or experience in life; it’s simple immersive awareness in the present moment.
It’s easy. It’s free. It’s healthy for the mind, body and spirit. It’s proven to be effective – for food, anxiety and everything in between.
Despite its recent acculturation into psychotherapy and mainstream literature, mindfulness and “savoring” have been around for centuries. In Two Flavors of Aesthetic Tasting: Rasa and Savoring: A Cross Cultural Study with Implications for Psychology of Emotion, humanistic psychologist Dr. L. Sundararajan, looks at savoring as an ancient process akin to mindfulness; albeit one step further as a more extensive processing of emotional information, particularly that of aesthetic experiences. Sundararajan speaks to the significance of the emotional process of “savoring and rasa” stating, “One insight driven home by rasa and savoring is the idea that emotions are not passive processes like digestion, but rather constitute active engagement with the world.”
With mindfulness, and more active processes such as savoring, we are more actively engaged in our lives, more aware of our emotional experiences; thus living more abundantly. In the great rat race of society, of eating, and most importantly of experiencing we are left with the words of Thich Nhat Hahn, “Letting go for those few short minutes and living in the here and now, you can begin to sense the pleasure and freedom from anxiety that a life lived in mindfulness can offer.”
— Liz Schreiber