How and where will you enjoy your next meal? The answer should not be in your car, over the computer or in front of the television.
By Adam Weiner, CFSE, and Veronica Alvarez, wellness educator, School of Medicine, Stanford University
In January 2016 I wrote the article Losing Weight as a Culinary Instructor, telling you how I lost 30 pounds with five to go, and how you could do the same. (And yes, I have lost more than those five since that article.)
One additional habit I discovered after writing the previous column was mindful eating. In a nutshell, mindful eating means relaxing, enjoying and, yes, even concentrating on what you are eating. As a chef, I would eat at the end of the service/event standing over a work table or sink horking down something because I hadn’t had the opportunity to eat before. As a culinary instructor, I often eat at my desk while responding to e-mails, calls, or doing paperwork while the students took a relaxing break. When teachers, chefs or cooks get home, they may eat in front of the television or computer. Are these scenarios familiar?
Mindful eating needs to be taught. With the obesity crisis running rampant in teenagers and young adults, anything we can do to prevent this lifelong problem should be taught. Please note that wellness and mindfulness are well-established throughout the country, not just in California. (It is even covered in most Kaiser Permanente insurance plans.) In your area you assuredly have resources available to you for either your own continuing education or a guest teacher in your class.
In a nutshell (pardon the food reference) mindful eating means paying attention to what you are eating. Don’t eat standing over the sink (as chefs and housewives and househusbands do), don’t eat while driving (which we all do), and don’t eat while on the phone/texting/surfing the web. When my kids were growing up I insisted we eat dinner as a family at a table, with electronics and televisions off. My daughter came home recently and showed me a study that indicated having family meals together several times a week is more important than anything else for a child’s emotional and intellectual development. (See University of Florida Study.)
Mindful eating reduces your stress, helps you lose weight, and is good for your children’s emotional and intellectual development. Therefore, we as culinary instructors need to practice mindful eating AND teach it to our students.
At JobTrain where I teach, we are blessed with Ms. Veronica Alvarez who is a wellness educator with the School of Medicine at Stanford University. Amongst many other things, she has taught wellness and mindful eating sessions to my students.
I am going to hand over to her the rest of the writing of this month’s article on how to actually practice and teach mindful eating. According to Ms. Alvarez:
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to what you eat and how you eat it. It is simple and can be considered an art. When we are in the day-to-day grind trying to get things done the last thing that comes to mind is, “How and where will I enjoy my meal today?”
I challenge you to begin noticing your thoughts, feelings and sensations while you eat. You will definitely experience a newfound joy and appreciation for food!
Why Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is important. When people are mindful about eating, they tend to: eat less; enjoy food more; and science has shown that it is better for digestion and reducing stress.
How many times have you heard, “Eat slowly and chew your food!” Please give credit to the person who told this to you. It can take up to 20 minutes after food is first eaten, for the full range of satiety signals to reach the brain. By this time and for some time afterward, we will experience feelings of fullness. Some of us are so hungry that we consume a meal in five minutes or less. This is a high health risk because it can lead to binge eating.
The stress hormone cortisol also increases a person’s appetite and may also increase motivation to eat. Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall. But, if the stress doesn’t go away — or if a person’s stress response gets stuck in the “on” position — cortisol may stay elevated.
High physical or emotional stress causes people to choose to eat foods that are high in fat, sugar or both. Eating these foods does not satisfy hunger and a person may continue to eat until they feel full.
Culinary educators should try a five minute Mindful Eating Practice, which engages all your senses. I recommend starting this practice with a piece of fruit (i.e. apple or grape):
- Observe - notice what is in your hand. (i.e. textures, colors, shapes, etc.)
- Smell - what scents do you identify? (i.e. sweet, earthy, fresh, etc.)
- Touch - feel the texture and temperature of what you are eating.
- Take – take one bite at a time. Notice you will taste something different after each bite (i.e. juicier, sweeter, etc.).
I wish you five minutes of mindfulness every day! Remember that mindful eating can lower your stress.
If you want a recipe to try with your class, may I suggest:
1 handful of baby or regular kale
2 fresh pineapple spears
1 cup of coconut water (look for lower sugar options)
1 tsp of chia seeds
Blend all ingredients and enjoy! Feel free to change the fruits, or add additional items such as apples or bananas.
Health Benefits Include: Vitamin K (bone health and blood clotting properties), anti-inflammatory properties, Fiber, Omega 3’s, Vitamin C and Potassium
Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain on the San Francisco Peninsula, and is a frequent presenter at CAFÉ events throughout the nation. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Antonin Carême Medal.