Mind Over Meal

Restrictive diets and food fads are not the way to good nutrition. A healthy dose of attention is what’s called for instead.

Illustration by Getty Images/Gillian Blease

How much do we love food? A lot, right? And not surprising, since we are quite simply designed to find pleasure from it. But we can get to liking it so much that we eat way more than we need, or we might get bored with it and not pay attention anymore. Newspaper in hand, spoon in mouth; one hand on steering wheel, the other holding a muffin; laptop revved up, Facebook at the ready, sandwich mid-air—is there anything that illustrates mindless behavior more than our habits around eating?

Instead of so often eating with our mind somewhere else, why not flip things around and use everything surrounding food as an opportunity to expand mindfulness? Most of us find that if we’re asked to go on a short fast, perhaps before having a medical test, we can pull it off. In a moment, without all that much stress, our nutritional habits drop away. We have no choice: I’m hungry, but I’m going to wait. It’s uncomfortable, and challenging, but doable—proof that it is really, really hard to change how and when we eat, but not impossible.

That’s mindfulness in a nutshell. Aware of annoyance or stress, we accept what’s unpleasant.…