Culinistas's Kitchen,  Health

What Is Mindful Eating?

Two moms and their kids smiling and eating around a table

by The Culinistas

The term Mindful Eating may be new for some, or a tried and true philosophy for others. At its core, it is a practice that will help you savor mealtimes and bring a new appreciation to preparing and eating your food. We partnered with THE WELL to put together a free Mindful Eating Guide and sat down with Raj Barker, a health coach and mindful movement instructor, to mythbust mindful eating. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Raj earned a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutritional Medicine from Endeavor College of Natural Health, before moving to New York City in 2015. Raj has a fierce passion for bringing wellness to the masses and is thrilled to deliver digestible (no pun intended), achievable advice to members in order to guide them toward a state of optimal health.

For those who are unfamiliar, what is THE WELL?

THE WELL is your complete ecosystem for wellness. We bring together Western doctors and Eastern healers to collaborate and create best in class healing spaces, innovative products and educational content and programs that empower you to take greater agency for your health. At THE WELL, your health is integrated, proactive and personalized.

Why is Mindful Eating important?

Mindful eating is the practice of limiting distractions and enjoying your food with full awareness. This practice allows your body to better digest the food you eat and gives you the opportunity to listen to your body’s cues, better understand when you are full and how foods impact your overall well-being.

How is mindful eating different from following a diet? 

Compared with most diets, there are no restrictive rules with mindful eating. Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, mindful eating invites you to turn inwards, explore your bodily sensations and the feedback your body is providing you with and listen to what your body may be asking for.

What mindful eating practices would you suggest for those who are just starting out?

The goal of mindful eating is to slow down and be present with your meal — there are a few ways to do this:

  • Try to sit down whenever eating.
  • Take a few deep breaths before beginning a meal or snack.
  • Thoroughly chew your food.
  • Check in with your breath throughout the meal and ask yourself how you are feeling (this may help you assess how hungry / full you are).

Cooking through quarantine has been a relaxing activity for some, and a stressor for others, what mindful eating practices are specific to meal preparation?

It’s important to identify where you sit in the above statement and then act in a way that supports your needs. If you find cooking stressful, how can you minimize the stress? Is it by buying pre-chopped vegetables or outsourcing some meals from a source you trust? For example, you could roast a whole chicken at the beginning of the week and divide it into portions. Throughout the week, serve these portions with healthy and wholesome side dishes prepared by someone else.

What culinary staples do you have in your kitchen?

I love to cook simply. My staples are a cold-pressed olive oil, a good quality salt and a vessel I enjoy eating from. I aim to consume fresh leafy greens, berries and avocados daily as I find these particular foods provide me with a wholesome foundation to build off of in different ways.

Three people you’d like to have dinner with?

Russell Brand, Jerry Seinfeld and Oprah

What is your most memorable meal?

I’m Australian, so I have a series of meals including fresh fish and salad variations by the beach that will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Thank you to Sylvie Rosokoff for the beautiful cover photo and to Raj for providing her headshot.