Eating is what we do when we are hungry or when it is the designated mealtime of the day. But for many eating is much more than activity that satisfies hunger; it is sensuous, blissful experience, a boredom reliever, a stress buster.
The most vocal, contemporary votary of mindful eating is Vietnamese, Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, for whom mindful eating is the entire process of buying, preparing, eating and relishing your food. Also, what you shop for reflects the wise choices you make.
Never sit down to a meal when you are ravenously hungry, he advises, as you might wolf down whatever is available. Opt for small portions and bites and chew slowly so you taste and enjoy what you are eating. Feeling grateful helps you appreciate your food, and you will not stuff your tummy mindlessly.
While cooking, be of cheerful disposition and serve food aesthetically, so the entire meal becomes a work of art, a pleasant and memorable experience. Take short pauses between mouthfuls, as it gives you the space to fully appreciate the experience. Eat slowly. That is all there is to it. It is said, you are what you eat; we could add, you are also how you eat.
The Japanese use a special term to describe overeating – ‘Kichisabishii’ meaning ‘lonely mouth’, writes Brittany Wong in the New York Times. Those frequent guilt trips to the kitchen, are nothing but the manifestations of ‘lonely mouth ‘syndrome. This longing to put something into one’s mouth and chew on it, is apparently due to boredom, sadness, anxiety, stress, worry, feeling of insecurity and in some cases, even anger and frustration.
Other undesirable habits that come closest to overeating are reaching for a cigarette, earning for chewing gum, biting one’s nails or in children, reaching for the pacifier. See? All these are not pretty habits, just as one does not get admired for shovelling food into one’s mouth. A friend of my father’s would describe addictive sackers as those who use your mouth as a grinder! That was a funny perspective but the best he could describe what he thought was a disgusting habit.
It has been observed, during these months of enforced lockdown to ward of spread of the Covid-19 virus, that a lot many people confined to their homes, even if they continue to work from home, tend to suffer from the ‘lonely mouth’ syndrome much more than usual. Well, the Japanese apparently have a phrase for that too Çoronabutori’ that is getting plump because of quarantine!
Additionally, the Japanese promote what they call ‘Shinrinyoku’, forest bathing – to get out into open and feast one’s senses on trees and other aspects of nature rather than chomp away on extra food. This is possible only when lockdown rules allow for a daily walk in the park or forest if you have one handy close by, listening to bird song, and soaking in the sunrise and sunset as often as possible.
Once the lockdown lifts, the best way to beat me ‘Kuchisabishii’ is to walk more outdoors and eat less and allow your senses to expand your horizons beyond using the mouth as a grinder.