Most readers of self-help literature on overeating are familiar with the concept of “mindful eating” and, probably, by now, most are able to trace the idea of mindful eating to the Buddhist tradition of the Oryoki meal. A while back (2009?), while preparing a seminar on “mindful emotional eating” for Duquesne University Counseling Center psychology post-docs, I was pondering the totality of influence of the Buddhist psychology on mindful eating know-how and I have identified at least 4 distinct ways in which Buddhist doctrines have paved the way for contemporary mindful eating self-help literature.
1. Ōryōki Meal: Process Focus and Fullness Recognition Oryoki is a meditative form of eating that emphasizes mindfulness by adhering to a precise order of eating movements, and stopping when you are full; “oryoki” means “just enough.”
2. Middle Way:Emphasis on Moderation Historical Buddha’s character arc of awakening/enlightenment exemplifies a movement from extremes to center: Siddhartha-the-Prince (indulgence/excess/overeating) > Siddhartha-the-Ascetic (renunciation/bodily mortification, ”anorexic”) >Siddhartha-the-Awakened (Middle Way, eating in moderation). The concept of “middle way” and the emphasis on moderation is a conceptual precursor to Harm Reduction approaches (that can be useful in managing emotonal eating by making emotional eating more conscious,for example).
3. Mindfulness Training as Habit Modification Mindfulness training serves as an effective platform for habit modification and for disrupting mindlessly maintained behavior patterns.
4. Mindfulness Training as Craving Control Mindfulness training, as a form of dis-identification from thoughts, feelings, and sensations can be used as an effective craving control strategy.
Buddha image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 25 Jun 2013