Jan Chozen Bays is a pediatrician and a meditation teacher who has taught mindful eating for more than 20 years. She states that this book is written for all those who would like to improve their relationship to food. That would include those who have a moderate tendency to overeat as well as those dealing with obesity, bulimia, or anorexia. Mindful eating means that we bring skillful attention, curiosity, and intention to choosing, preparing, tasting, and eating food. All the senses come alive, and self-criticism is replaced by self-nurturing.
Bays explores the seven kinds of hunger (eye, nose, mouth, stomach, cellular, mind, heart). Many people admit feeling frustration, sadness, boredom, disappointment, anger, insecurity, or impatience just before they snack. Others eat as a way of relieving loneliness. Bays observes: "Most unbalanced relationships with food are caused by being unaware of heart hunger. No food can satisfy this form of hunger. To satisfy it we must learn how to nourish our hearts."
Another important aspect of mindful eating is taking stock of the eating habits and patterns we have developed through our lives. Some of these patterns of behavior include idiosyncratic eating, overwhelming desire, and going unconscious. In this linchpin chapter, Bays also discusses a feast-or-famine mode of dieting; becoming aware of food cravings, fears, and anxieties; the (un)holy trio of sugar, salt, and fat; and the different dimensions of food and mood.
Bays moves on to Six Simple Guidelines for Mindful Eating:
• Slow It Down
• Right Amount
• The Energy Equation
• Mindful Substitution
• Out of Sight, Out of Mind
• Loving-Kindness and the Inner Critic
In Plum Village, the Zen practice center founded by Thich Nhat Hanh, before meals they say, "In this food I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence." We often take for granted our bodies and the food we eat; we stop paying attention to these two precious gifts. Bays points out the importance of the spiritual practice of gratitude in mindful eating. Packaged with the book is a one hour and fifteen minute CD with meditations and other exercises to enhance mindful eating.