Mindful Eating

“Using mindfulness we will find that anything we bring our full attention to will begin to open up and reveal worlds we never suspected existed.” Jan Chozen-Bays

I don’t know what I have survived on all summer but the muffin tins have somehow ended up in my toddler’s toy chest and the crock pot is dusty. However, all it took was a couple of cool autumn evenings for me to start fantasizing about cornbread and chilli and eagerly preparing a feast of filling foods. 

That familiar urge to eat rich, hot, homemade food as the weather cools is what Jan Chozen-Bays, Zen monk and author, would categorize as cellular hunger. While our lives and minds may feel as busy as ever, our bodies are deeply connected to the seasons and our cells urge us to slow down and eat well to prepare for the winter. Cellular hunger is just one of six types of hunger Chozen-Bays describes in delicious detail in her book, Mindful Eating

As Chozen-Bays emphasizes, Mindful Eating is not a weight loss plan or quick fix. She writes,  “Will you lose or gain weight if you bring mindfulness into cooking and eating? I don’t know. What you could lose is the weight of the mind’s unhappiness with eating and dissatisfaction with food. What you could gain are a simple joy with food and an easy pleasure in eating that are you birthrights as a human being.” 

I have spent the past few months paying close attention to my hunger, trying to determine, as Chozen-Bays suggests, what part of me is truly hungry. Is it my belly or is it something more? If I sit just a little bit longer with my hunger, I may notice that my belly is fine and my mouth is bored, craving texture and taste for entertainment. In truth though, what I find more often than not, is that it is my heart that’s hungry. Grilled cheese and a pickle on a stressful day are an enormous comfort that remind me of when I would stay home from school with mom.

By paying close attention to the type of hunger we are experiencing in a moment, we create an opportunity to respond thoughtfully to the complex demands of the body, mind and heart. I still eat that grilled cheese on a tough day, but I do so consciously, as an act of self-compassion. I keep in mind how the sun, rain, insects, farmers, shop owners and especially my mom have donated some of their energy to feed me and I feel truly nourished. It is this sense of being embedded in a web of interconnection that gives me a lasting sense of being full. In those slow moments, I finally have enough. 

Kristen Swanson