The topic of my blog post today is a little bit random, but I feel it is a very interesting and equally important subject to think about in terms of working with Grow Appalachia. As we all know, and are reminded every day, we live in a country that is plagued by both obesity and ironically hunger as well. Now there are many factors that contribute to these problems and many different solutions as well, but I won’t go into all those details here or bombard you with all the statistics. What I want to focus on today is the idea of mindful eating, a practice which I think we could all benefit from. While listening to NPR several weeks ago, I caught the tail end of a discussion about mindful eating and was interested to learn more, so here is a brief bit of what I have learned.

Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness is a Buddhist meditation that means you engage in a moment-by- moment awareness of life, you observe your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and outer environment without judgment. Practicing mindfulness is said to help break habits and patterns that may be destructive to your well being.

Turn off the TV before the whole pizza is gone!
            In terms of eating, mindfulness can help us to slow down, appreciate and enjoy the food we are eating. It can also help us to learn to eat what our bodies really need in an appropriate amount. For most of us meal time has become something rushed and unimportant, if we even take the time to prepare our food we do it quickly and without much thought, we then proceed to sit in front of the TV or our computers, or worse we eat in the car as we move on to our next task of the day.  Even those who sit down at the table to eat their meal are usually distracted and a whole meal can be consumed before we even realize what or how much we have eaten. Family mealtime is a wonderful tradition and a part of my upbringing that I am extremely grateful to my parents for upholding, but when I think about it, even dinner table conversation with family and friends takes your focus away from the physical and mental act of eating. This is where the idea of mindful eating comes into play, mindful eating as a practice involves focusing solely on the act of eating while you are doing it. Someone who practices mindful eating will eat in silence, paying attention to the appearance, taste, and texture of their food, as well as thinking about the nutritional value of the food and learning to feel and heed hunger and satiation cues. Most importantly mindful eating means SLOWING DOWN, taking the time to let your mind and your body process the food as you eat it, instead of attending to other things while you eat and all of a sudden realizing your plate is already empty though you have no recollection of eating all the food on it.
Enjoy your food even while you aren’t eating it
This practice is very interesting to me, but I know that most people are not going to adopt this Buddhist practice on a daily basis, so I want to suggest a type of mindful eating that incorporates these practices, but focuses more on simply thinking about our food as gardeners or individuals who strive to be more connected with the food they consume. This might include considering where the food you are eating came from, how many hands touched the food before it reached your plate, and who worked to grow what you are consuming? What does your food taste, and look like, and is it nutritionally valuable to your body. For some of us this might mean first asking the question, did I prepare this myself? If the answer is no, then is it something you could have prepared yourself? And what are the ingredients that make up the food you are eating? Do you even recognize what they are from the ingredient list? I know that I find immense joy in cooking my own meals and knowing where my food came from, in being able to personally identify the person who produced the squash, and garlic, mushrooms, and eggs that made up my most recent meal, and to know the physical location that these foods come from. We may not all have the time or desire to think about every aspect of every bite we take each day but maybe committing to eating in silence for the first several minutes of our evening meal is something we could all do on a daily basis. If you are dining with friends and family, talk about the food you are eating and enjoy one another’s company while still being mindful of what’s on your plate and how it came to be there.
The Mindful Plate

Here are several interesting articles on the topic of mindful eating: