July 9, 2014 — The deep pink of watermelon, the sharp crunch of carrots, the cool scent of fresh mint—these are some of the things that Lilian Cheung is hoping people will focus on while eating at the Harvard School of Public Health’s new “Mindful Eating Corner” in Kresge Cafeteria.
Cheung, lecturer and director of health promotion and communication in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH, and editorial director of HSPH’s Nutrition Source website, came up with the idea to set aside a special spot in the cafeteria for mindful eating to raise awareness of its benefits. Eating mindfully means choosing a healthy mix of foods; savoring colors, smells, and textures; chewing slowly; and thinking appreciatively about how the food was grown and produced. Cheung says eating mindfully can lead to healthier food choices, can reduce the tendency to overeat, and can help people enjoy their food more and feel more satisfied with smaller amounts.
“The important thing is to eat beyond just taste,” said Cheung. “With mindful eating, we eat with all of our senses.”
Thanks to support from Sebastian’s Café general manager Frances Fahy and Cheung’s nutrition department colleagues, a previously nondescript round corner table in Kresge Cafeteria is now outfitted with a large poster, a table tent, and handouts that explain the basics of mindful eating. One side of the handouts lists the “7 Habits of a Mindful Eater,” such as “Engage in all six senses” and “Eat a plant-based diet.” The other side lists “5 Contemplations for Mindful Eating,” such as “We only put on our plate as much food as we can eat,” and “We chew the food slowly, so that we can savor.”
Cheung herself discovered mindful eating in 1997, when she attended a mindful living retreat with Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. In 2010, she co-wrote a book on mindful eating with Hanh, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.
Cheung said she hopes the Mindful Eating Corner will provide an orientation for people who have never before tried to eat mindfully. “I hope people take some time to unwind, refuel, and refresh through mindful eating,” she said. “And we hope the community takes it home with them, because to be able to eat mindfully together as a family is a really awesome experience.”
Seven tips for losing weight—without dieting (HSPH news)
Savor every bite with mindful eating (HSPH news)
Lilian Cheung: “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life” (HSPH video)
Healthy Eating Plate (HSPH Nutrition Source)