Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung

Last night, when I began reading Savor, I sat down at my couch with my dinner plate.  The television was on, my roommates and I were having conversations here and there about what was on TV, my computer was in front of me so I could check Twitter updates and Google Reader updates now and then, I was munching on my panko-breaded chicken and green beans and all the while trying to read Savor.  Then I read the introduction and took a long hard look at what I was doing and realized that I was completely ignoring my mindfulness about eating and was therefore, mindlessly eating.

The best concepts in this book come at the very beginning, with the introduction and the first few chapters, to introduce you to the concept of mindfulness to beat out mindlessness.  I have been struggling with my weight since I was in the fifth grade.  I have read diet books before, but I don’t think I would classify Savor as a diet book.  This book is certainly more about changing your entire life and your perceptions of the world and your actions in it.  Will this book change your life?  It could, but even though it certainly made me more aware of what I am eating and how, it didn’t drastically change mine.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life is written by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh with the help of Dr. Lilian Cheung and it applies Buddhist principles to all aspects of our lives, from eating and choosing what to eat, to interacting with family and friends and even surviving a commute.  This book is at its strongest when it is directly applying Buddhist concepts and ideas to food, but unfortunately it delves into too many other topics keeping it from having as great an impact.

For some people, like me, Savor will be a book that they glance at and take some principles from.  Even though many books and magazines have told me “chew your food slower!”, Cheung and Nhat Hanh’s approach to really appreciating your food and thinking about where it came from to get to your plate struck me as a more contemplative and helpful way of eating your food slower.  Savor encourages eating less meat and promotes the benefits of vegetarianism, along with abstaining from alcohol.  What I liked about their approach was they never said, “Don’t eat meat!”  What they ask is that readers be completely conscious of what it took to get that meat to your plate.  If, after being entirely knowledgeable about the process and detriments of eating meat, you still are not interested in giving it up entirely, please only eat it a little bit.  This was very appealing to me, in comparison to other books that do not take life necessities into consideration.

Over the past five months or so, I have become increasingly more conscious of what food I put into my body and how it affects my body.  Over the past four weeks, I have begun to eat much healthier.  It has been a combination of motivation from friends and family, books I have read and my own personal research on the internet that has made this transformation for me.  At this point I really do feel as though I can call it a transformation, because I feel different than I ever have in my life and my cravings have finally left.  I loved fast food.  It began as a time constraint from commuting and it turned into something much worse, where I was constantly craving fatty foods, even if I had a delicious dinner to make at home.  I have started eating as minimally processed foods as I can, I eat much less meat (though I’d have a hard time giving up eggs as Savor suggests), I’ve reduced my dairy consumption to two servings a day and my calorie intake is significantly lower.  I’ve been going to the gym consistently for four weeks now.  Do you know the last time that happened?  Never.

So did Savor have much of an impact on how I’m approaching this change in my life?  I’m not sure.  I definitely plan on being more conscious of my food and how it got to my plate.  I will be aware of how my decisions affect others, perhaps, but for the most part I think this book reaffirmed a lot of what I already believed.   I think that I would love to attend one of the seminars discussed in this book and think that the information probably could have been organized better, or even in a different medium than a book.  A lot of the information seemed repetitive, but in terms of actively putting it to use, I’m sure it will be helpful, especially all of the breathing exercises.  Will I be passing this book on to family members?  Absolutely.  I’ll let you know what they think of it.

If you are interested in reading Savor or learning more about what mindful eating is, head over to Savor’s website.  It’s very helpful and well-organized (I’m a sucker for a beautiful, well-organized website) and there is a community of folks who are trying to live their lives mindfully.

So go read this!: It’s hard to say.  I think everyone could benefit from reading this book, but I don’t think everyone is going to get the same, or even the same number of, helpful tips for successfully having a healthier relationship with food.  I recommend it, but with the knowledge that it’s not a perfect book or perfect for everyone.

Thanks to TLC tours for sending me a copy of this book to review today!

Other stops on the tour: I write in books, Bibliofreak Blog, Rundpinne, Escape from Obesity, Balanced Health and Nutrition, Pasta Queen, Happy Lotus, The Token Fat Girl, Laughing Through the Chaos, The Tippy Toe Diet, Crunches for Cupcakes, 133ov, Fit Bottomed Girls, Nutrition Unplugged, A Blog Blog.

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10 thoughts on “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung

  1. I had this same sort of reaction when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I started thinking much more about my eating habits (not that I’ve ever been one for fast food). I’ve always been a foodie, but now I’m more conscious of how I eat at home. I have also just gotten more involved in local food things- attending seminars, buying from farmers markets, etc. And am planning to start volunteering at an urban farm this spring, too!

  2. I think books like these don’t often make a huge impact, but it’s those little nudges in a different direction that add up to life changes. I really like supporting the local economy by buying from a local grocer, a local butcher, and the only thing I haven’t done is trekked out to my local farmer’s market (though I’m contemplating signing up for box of veggies delivered to my doorstep!). The only thing I could/should eat less of is starches. When I make rice, I always have two servings, and it’s the same with potatoes. I just love them SO MUCH! Fortunately, I never did enjoy fast food, so that’s not a craving I’ve had to lose, but I am working right now on not eating so much candy. Right now I’m craving it, but I’m going to eat an orange instead. I hope these cravings for candy lessen or go away at some point!

    Thanks for being on this tour! I appreciate this very personal review. 🙂

  3. I like the idea of taking time to appreciate where your food comes from. I find gardening is a great way to do that. When I harvest, prepare, and eat a home-grown meal, the experience is so different (and much more tasty!) than store-bought food.

  4. Oh man, I’m really bad with the mindful eating thing. I just don’t love food. I eat organic, local, etc…but I do it out of a sense of obligation, not a sense of enjoyment. I’m just not that into eating. Most of the time it feels like a chore. The last thing I want to do is devote MORE time to coordinating meals & feeding myself. Theoretically, I know that spending some extra time being more mindful about eating might increase my enjoyment level…but it never seems that way at the time. :-/ Still, thanks for this review – it’s a good prod in the right direction.

  5. I hadn’t heard of this book before. It sounds quite good. It’s amazing how quickly fast food, sugar, etc. can be become a bad habit, or even addicting. Somehow I’ve managed to avoid the fast-food thing (a couple times a year I’ll have fries or a bean burrito, but most everything else scares me), and I rarely eat meat, but I could be better eating locally/organically/less sugar. I don’t eat very mindfully, however. I’m totally happy eating in front of a book with the TV on in the background. That’s kind of just how my life is right now. However, I could make some changes to that. I do cook a lot, and I cook in silence and contemplation (or sometimes with classical music) and that feels very mindful. So perhaps there’s my compromise. I’ll cook everything mindfully, but then will enjoy having my dinner with a book or movie. 🙂

  6. Michael Pollan’s books were for me these same type of Aha! moments that you describe here. Not just of mindful eating but mindful consumption. Remembering where your food comes from and respecting the processes by which it arrives to you. Food processing and factory farming in this country are so in need of reform. But let me get of my soapbox before I get started in earnest, and say that I enjoyed your review and would not mind reading this one myself.

  7. Your description of how you eat made me laugh because it’s EXACTLY how I end up eating all the time, and I hate it! I’m always eating in front of my computer reading e-mails or blogs, or watching tv, or watching a movie, or doing something completely different. I think I end up doing it because I’m so used to eating with people that eating by myself seems weird. But if I’m doing something, it’s like I have that other person around to eat with… or something? Anyway, this book sounds good — I’m going to look for it.

  8. This sounds like an enlightening read. I struggle sometimes with eating healthier and I struggle with mindfulness in any situation. Since my father’s passing I think we have eaten at the table a handful of times. We usually eat and watch TV. I am on a kick to get my family to eat healthier and be more mindful, too, since my mother is now pre-diabetic. I read The Sugar Solution last year and it did a lot to help me, too. Good review.

  9. I’m totally guilty of mindless eating — munching, if you will, while doing about a million other tasks. In fact! I was popping Whoppers into my mouth when I started your blog post, stuffing one after another in my mouth while I scrolled.

    But then I stopped doing that. 🙂

    Sounds like a very fascinating read and I really enjoyed your review! My favorites are always when the blogger relates the book to his/her own life and I can definitely relate what much of what you wrote. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

    P.S. Have you read/seen Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals? I love him and am curious about it, but worry it would totally freak me out. And I’m not super excited about converting to vegetarianism, which is probably what would happen! Gah!

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