Mindful Eating: Open Your Mind Before You Open Your Mouth Articles

Mindful Eating Moment # 804

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Mindful eating moment # 804: “Standing on a city park bench, eating mulberries. A summer treat.”

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Mindful Eating Tracker

Eating is Yoga

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014


9781608821013The Sanskrit root of the word “yoga” means “to yoke.” Therefore, yoga is literally union. In truth, all of your existence is yoga. You are made of this world. You depend on this world. If this world ends— locally or globally—you end too. There is no absolute self-sufficiency, and therefore no stand-alone self. All separation is relative, a trick of the mind. Untrick yourself at your next meal. Recognize that you are not apart from this world but a part of this world. Eating, just like breathing, reminds you of this union. As such, eating is yoga; eating unifies. And your dinner table is a yoga mat for your mind. Stay in the asana you are in. When you eat, eat.

Adapted from “Reinventing the Meal” (Somov, 2013)


A Seed of Awareness

Friday, June 6th, 2014


9781608821013Botanically, a seed is not the potential for life; it’s already a life—a tiny plant life with a lunch box of its own food, awaiting a journey of life. In my book The Lotus Effect (2010), I shared a story about 1,300-year-old lotus seeds that managed to germinate and grow when given a chance.

Eat a handful of seeds to meditate on how innocently your metabolic needs result in killing. Here you are, taking care of yourself and, at the same time, denying a living thing its chance to grow and flourish. Wrestle for a moment with the question of which is more important, you or those seeds. My answer is you, of course. If those seeds could eat you to survive, they would. Life is inevitably self-serving. As long as there is a self, it is going to serve itself a serving of environ- ment. That’s just how it is. So, even as you contemplate this inevitable zero-sum metabolic scenario, enjoy your sustenance. No guilt, I say— just compassion and gratitude!

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2013)



Disconnecting Through Eating

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014


9781608821013Breaking bread with someone is a form of intimacy. But eating can also alienate. As Lucille Schulberg wrote in Historic India, “A primary impulse behind the caste system was probably the fear of spiritual pollution through food” (1968, 140):

[The Indians believed that] the mana, or ‘soul-stuff’ of human beings was the same as the soul-stuff of food, especially vegeta- ble food. Unbroken cereal food—grasses growing in a field, seeds waiting to be gathered—retained their soul-stuff when they were handled; anyone could touch and eat them safely. But once grain was softened in cooking or seeds were pressed for their oil, their soul-stuff mixed with the soul-stuff of the person who prepared the food… A taboo on sharing food with an outsider—that is, with anyone not in [one’s] own caste—was a protective measure against such spiritual pollution… The higher a caste, the more restricted its menu.

A couple of questions for you.

  • Do you believe that the “soul-stuff” of food is the same as your “soul-stuff”? If you do, how does this inform your eating? If you don’t, how does that influence your eating practices?
  • Also, in what ways are you an eating outcast?
  • How does your eating style isolate you?

Ponder how what you eat might have stratified you socially. Ponder how connecting to something existential or spiritual through eating can also lead to some degree of social disconnecting.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2013)


A Bite of Knowledge from a Tree of Mindful Eating

Sunday, June 1st, 2014


9781608821013When you eat a fruit, such as an apple, you are stepping—wittingly or unwittingly—into someone else’s reproductive cycle, becoming involved in a kind of ménage à trois with a tree and Earth in a life-giving project.

In fact, when you eat a piece of fruit, you are literally eating a plant-based sex organ. A fruit, botanically speaking, is a sexually active part of a flowering plant. When you consume an apple, you eat its fleshy, sweet, pulpy ovary tissue, and then you participate in the process of seed dispersal by throwing out the apple core.

Naturally, if you shred the apple core and its seeds in a kitchen garbage disposal, there isn’t any life-giving going on. But if you eat an apple and toss the core into your backyard, you might just be participating in the birth of a future apple tree. Ponder this apple bite from the tree of knowledge before your next meal.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2013)

Share your mindful eating moments at Mindful Eating Tracker





Craving Control: Controlling By Letting Go of Control

Friday, May 30th, 2014


9781608821013Mindfulness involves two essential mechanisms: applying a certain kind of attention and practicing disidentification.

Attention can be active or passive: that of an active observer or that of an uninvolved witness. This distinction is easy to understand through contrasting such verbs as “to look” versus “to see.” “To look” implies an active visual scanning, a kind of goal-oriented visual activity. “To see” implies nothing other than a fact of visual registration. Say I lost my house keys. I would have to look for them. But in the process of looking for my house keys, I might also happen to see an old concert ticket. Mindfulness is about seeing, not looking. It is about just noticing or just witnessing without attachment to or identification with what is being noticed and witnessed. This is where disidentification comes in.

Cravings (for dessert or something specific to eat, or just to keep eating) come and go. Mindfulness—as a meditative stance—allows you to recognize that craving is a transient, fleeting state of mind, and just one part of your overall experience. Mindfulness teaches you to realize that this impulse to keep on eating is but a thought inside the mind. Yes, it’s part of you, but it isn’t all of you—which is exactly why you can just notice it, just see it without having to stare at it. In sum, mindful- ness—as a form of impulse control—is a strategy of controlling by letting go of control.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2013)




Taste of Longevity: Long Life is Sweet

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

chocolatesFascinating new research:

“Bitter tastes could have negative effects on lifespan, sweet tastes had positive effects,” reports Science Daily.  At least, in fruit flies.

Michael Waterson, a Ph.D graduate student in U-M’s Cellular and Molecular Biology Program, explains: “Findings help us better understand the influence of sensory signals, which we now know not only tune an organism into its environment but also cause substantial changes in physiology that affect overall health and longevity. We need further studies to help us apply this knowledge to health in humans potentially through tailored diets favoring certain tastes or even pharmaceutical compounds that target taste inputs without diet alterations.”

Here’s how I make sense of these intriguing findings.  When life tastes good, it seems, the body positions itself for a longer existence.  When life tastes bitter, the body, it seems, fails to thrive.  Conclusion: a sweeter life makes for a longer life, whereas a life of bitterness (and sensory deprivation) might not last as long.

I am sure you heard the expression “life is sweet.”  Perhaps there is a correction in order: “Long life is sweet.”

A take-home message: awaken your senses!

Also makes me wonder, in the spirit of harm reduction, if a sweeter-tasting cigarette would be less dangerous, less life-shortening than a comparable one that is not as palatable.

ps: Coincidentally, the other day, while putzing around in my yard, I spotted an unfamiliar plant – a long, sturdy stalk.  I yanked it out of the ground, for no good reason, and, for no better reason, tasted the sap.  Bitter as hell!  “This kind of reckless experimentation could have shortened my life,” I thought to myself and went inside to get another cup of coffee, which I decided to take with cream and sugar, instead of the usual packet of sweetener.

Source: Science Daily: Taste Test: Could Sense of Taste Affect Length of Life?

Chocolates image available from Shutterstock.

Eat With Your Eyes Closed

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014


9781608821013Close your eyes to see—with the mind’s eye of mindfulness—what you are eating.

Mindfulness is a kind of “super-vision” because it allows you to see with the eyes shut.

Mindfulness “over-sees”… and, thus, serves as a platform for self-control.

Adapted from “Reinventing the Meal” (Somov, New Harbinger, 2012)

Share your mindfuls at Mindful Eating Tracker



Emotional Eating: 24×7 Self-Acceptance

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Working on yet another book on mindful eating, another one in the Jumpstart series, this time on mindful emotional eating, currently on the chapter devoted to nighttime emotional eating, not on how to eliminate it but on how to make it mindful – a humanistic harm reduction approach.

Here’s an excerpt, here’s how the chapter begins (mind you it’s a first draft):

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Albert Camus

The days of our lives seem to have sisyphian circularity to them.  One frustrating situation after another we push and push the boulder of cumulative stress up the day’s hill only to be run over by it at the end of the day.  It doesn’t help that we keep piling on hard-to-fulfill expectations on ourselves: we promise to find a better way of coping, without eating, and we commit to start anew tomorrow morning.  But tomorrow comes and this sisyphian circle repeats itself:  all day long we are trying to be good, taking care of business, managing frustration until the long-awaited evening comes and all we want to do is just sit back, watch a little TV and munch.  Saying good night to an overwhelmed mind is no easy matter.

5 Types of Nighttime Emotional Eating

I distinguish five different kinds of nighttime eating: hermit eating, decompressing, reward eating, insomnia-related eating, and metabolic nighttime eating.  There is also the sleep eating that is akin to sleep walking but that is a special case beyond the scope of this chapter.  This, of course, is an informal taxonomy, just a way of sorting through the different nighttime eating scenarios.  A better understanding of how your clients arrive at these emotional eating moments is essential for …

Managing Overeating: The Art of Homework

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

9781572245433The focus on wellness, particularly on the management of overeating, in therapy can be a double-edged sword.  While clients often readily embrace the vector of self-care, goal-specific treatment planning and clinical homework can trigger the games of avoidance.  Suddenly, the validating therapist is thrown into the role of a wellness expert and becomes an accountability check.

Before too long, mere inquiry into the client’s progress runs a discordant parallel to punitive supervision.  With this actual or perceived change of hats, the process of the therapy changes, the wellness goals are eventually abandoned and the closet of therapy fills up with the skeletons of failed objectives.  This – in my experience – has been an inherent complexity of problem-focused treatments such as behavioral medicine.

Such experiences have taught me that a non-directive, harm-reduction, humanistic angle of engagement works best in facilitating clients’ wellness goal of weight management.  In particular, I have enjoyed better “compliance luck” from the clinical position in which I frame success in overcoming overeating as more of a know-how issue than a motivational issue.  With this in mind, as part of the role-induction to behavioral weight management, I let clients know that I am aware of a variety of behavioral exercises that can help them transition from mindless reactive eating to a more mindful and more conscious eating stance, and I then offer the client to look at their weight management “homework” as a kind of experiential journey of gradual acquisition of mindful eating skills, and not as a frantic blitzkrieg of change.

This gradual, exploratory behavioral goal-frame, in my experience, reduces the often arbitrary urgency of the need to change (with the example of arbitrary urgency being: “I need to lose weight to look good at my son’s wedding”).  An open-ended stance on behavioral homework (“You have the rest of your life to gain control over this issue and I have several exercises for us to try, so let’s just take time to see what works best for you”) also pre-empts and obviates “compliance relapse.”

Furthermore, a humanistically-permissive therapeutic posture allows the clinician …

Select books by Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.:
Mindful Emotional Eating Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment

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