Mindful Eating to Nourish Body and Mind

by Prof Dr. Poh Bee Koon, The Buddhist Channel, 1 Jan 2024

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- In Buddhist teachings, eating is not just a simple daily task. It is a practice that involves mindfulness, gratitude, and compassion. When we reflect on food, we are not just thinking about the taste. We also take into consideration the whole network of life that brings these foods to our table. This network essentially keeps us alive.

A big part of Buddhist food contemplative practices is mindful awareness. We believe in being completely in the moment while eating, turning mealtime into a kind of meditation. Every bite is a chance to engage the senses, taking in the colors, smells, textures, and flavors that make up the meal.

The Buddha exhorts us to take food "... not for play, not for fattening, not for beautifying", but only for "... the continuation and nourishment of this body, for helping to keep it unharmed." The Buddha once failed this process before he gained Enlightenment. His failure led him to realize that a healthy mind can only be good in a healthy body.

This mindfulness also includes a sense of gratitude. Buddhists generally appreciate all the beings and elements that contribute to the food we eat. We are thankful for the farmers who care for the soil, the cooks who prepare the meals, and even the sun and rain that help crops grow. Basically this is what the principles of "dependant origination" is all about. Without one, the other would not happen. This appreciation of the food cycle, mimics that of the cycle of life. Through food, we practice an important value in Buddhism, which is gratitude.

Choosing What to Eat with Care

In Buddhism, there are no strict dietary rules. Instead, it encourages us to reflect on how food affects our body and mind. While we are encouraged to consume in moderation, we also believe the importance in choosing food that meets our individual needs and health.

When making these choices, we are taught to consider the interconnectedness of all beings. Some, out of compassion, might choose a vegetarian or plant-based diet to reduce harm to animals. This choice reflects the Buddhist principle of ahimsa, or non-harming, showing a deep respect for all life.

Feeding the Body and the Mind

Buddhist food reflection is not just about physical nourishment. Mindful eating is seen as a practice that recognizes the deep connection between body and mind. Eating consciously is actually training for us to improve our overall well-being.

This nurturing also involves recognizing emotional triggers related to eating. By being mindful, we can understand and address these triggers, leading to a healthier relationship with food. Balanced food choices become a way to support emotional well-being, going beyond just physical nourishment.

Mindful Eating vs. Mindless Eating

In contrast to the mindful approach of Buddhism, today’s world is full of mindless eating habits that can have harmful effects, especially for adults. Eating without thinking, such as consuming food while staring at a screen, can lead to overeating, poor food choices, and higher risk of chronic diseases.

Some parents, for instance, place mobile gadgets in front of their child during meal times. Training young minds to be unmindful to what they eat, in other words - mindless eating, can lead to unhealthy habits that can last into adulthood. It can affect children’s growth and development, learning, behaviour, and increase the risk of childhood obesity.

Recognizing the need to address this issue, our research team at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM, The National University of Malaysia) has been actively engaged in creating a module on mindful eating, specifically tailored for parents of preschool-age children. This research endeavours to bridge the gap between mindfulness principles and practical, everyday strategies for parents.

Promoting Mindful Eating Practices

Mindful eating, like any precepts, requires an undertaking to training; a training that watches what goes into our mouth, and to saviour whatever that is in there before being swallowed. It is watchfulness, which launches a thousand sensations that are available only to the mindful: hot, cold, hard, soft, sweet, salty, bitter, chewy, liquidy, etc.

Drawing on our research insights, the mindful eating module designed by our UKM team aims to empower parents with practical tools. By paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, making balanced food choices, and truly enjoying the experience of eating, parents can instil these habits in their children from an early age. This module is not just a set of guidelines but a comprehensive approach, integrating the principles of mindfulness into the daily routines of families.

Mindful eating is the antithesis to the negative effects of mindless eating. By incorporating these strategies, parents can utilize practical Buddhist teachings on a daily basis to reduce the risk of obesity, poor nutrition, and related health problems among their preschool-age children. These mindful eating practices serve as a valuable guide for families, fostering a positive relationship with food and promoting overall well-being.

Poh Bee Koon is Professor of Nutrition at Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). She has more than 20 years of research experience that involves multi-disciplinary and multi-country projects, specializing in childhood and adolescent nutrition.
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv