Beyond Mindful Eating – with Marc David

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Mindful eating has been a popular topic for some time now, and for good reason. So what exactly is mindful eating, why is it so important, and what might be waiting for us if we look down the road and see what’s next?

Join Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating as he adds a little spice and surprise to what it means to be an awakened eater. This brief and entertaining video just might leave you more informed, and certainly more inspired when it comes to how you nourish body and self.

Here is a transcript of this week’s video:

Greetings friends, this is Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Today’s topic: Beyond Mindful Eating

There is a wonderful movement right now in the nutrition and eating psychology universe to encourage people to be mindful eaters. Let me say right from the beginning that this is such an important concept. I’ve been doing my best to talk about this since the idea of mindfulness gained a huge amount of momentum in the late 1980s.

Mindful eating is all about being present, being aware, noticing, tasting your food, experiencing the food, noticing your body, and being alert to the details of your meal as opposed to focusing our energy and attention on the computer or the cell phone or driving your car. Mindfulness is all about doing the thing that you’re doing. It’s pretty straightforward. And it works.

If you’re the kind of person that’s never truly focused on food when you eat food, a mindful eating experience can be a revelation. It’s extremely helpful for many people who have a challenging relationship with food.

But I’ve noticed that mindful eating has lost a bit of its popularity and momentum. A while back, a doctor friend of mine, who leads very successful and well attended workshops and classes, lamented to me that she created a workshop on mindful eating and quite literally no one showed up. She was perplexed because her patient and student population love her workshops and love learning about nutrition. I asked her what the name of her workshop was, and she told me very simply that it was advertised as “Mindful Eating.”

I explained that the title was likely the problem. How we name things is important. Mindful eating makes it sound like we’re eating with our head. We have to stay alert to our mind, and it doesn’t sound very sexy, seductive, nourishing, or fun.

That’s why I like to use the term soulful eating.

Soulful eating means we feel well nourished. Soulful eating is about pleasure, slow, the nuances of the meal, a bit of sensuality, some smiles, some hearty laughs, celebration, connection, and a sweet communal experience.

For many people, when they think of mindful eating, they’ll often think that I have to eat like a silent monk, and be super meditative and not have much fun. Mindful eating is often interpreted as a dry and intellectual experience.

Yes, food and nutrition is a scientific affair. And yes, mindful eating can help ensure that we have an eating experience that works.

But we need a little bit of soul when it comes to food. Maybe even a lot of soul.

When I say soul I mean the part of us that’s emotional, passionate, engaged, inspired, warm and spicy.

Notice people who have a challenging relationship with food – when they engage with a meal or snack, they often become contracted, silent, aloof, pensive, worried, and if they’re in the company of others, they do their best to absolutely hide their inner turmoil and challenge that they’re having about eating in public. They become locked in their heads, and they abandon heart and soul. They check out of the body.

If you want to transform your relationship with food, for sure practice mindful eating, but please remember to always go beyond it.

Embrace the soulful place inside of you that gives you your color, your character, your personality, and your zest for life.

In my early 20s, I went to a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat. This is a pretty unique and amazing experience, where, for 10 straight days, in a beautiful location in the country, about 150 of us meditated in silence from the early morning hours into the evening, with breaks for meals. Even during the meals, people were required to be in silence.

Well, about five days into the retreat, I was really noticing that during meals, particularly at lunch, which was the biggest meal, all 150 of us meditators would gorge ourselves with food. People would eat fast, unconsciously, and I could notice everyone’s discomfort from overeating.

It was also obvious to me that mealtimes were like stress relief from meditating 10 hours a day – so it struck me as being odd that we were all focused and determined while we were meditating, and completely mindless during our meals.

By day number eight I noticed myself spending a good bit of time observing everyone’s eating habits. I also began to slow myself down and apply mindfulness to my food. It seemed like a good idea. But what happened when I began to eat mindfully was actually a life-changing experience.

During lunch on day number eight, it felt as if I was tasting foods for the first time ever. I had spent my whole life rushing through meals and being a fast eater. I didn’t chew much, I didn’t taste much, and I would tend to swallow food whole.

Well, the experience of truly tasting food for the first time after spending eight days in silent meditation was profound. My taste buds burst open like never before. The sensation of pleasure was exploding on my tongue, in my mouth, and it was radiating waves throughout my body.

This experience was so ecstatic and such a high that I spontaneously burst out laughing at the table. This was the first time in eight days that anyone had heard a sound from another meditator. I had broken the code of social silence. My laughter was out of control, and I was loving it.

Two very concerned workshop assistants came over to my table, took me by the arm, and walked me into the hallway. 150 sets of eyes were all looking at what must have seemed to them like the crazy guy. The assistants very politely asked me what was happening and I explained to them everything I just told you. I reported to them that for eight days everyone was eating mindlessly, I decided to eat and be present for the first time ever, and tasting food for the first time sent me into uncontrollable ecstasy.

The two assistants pulled away from me, had a very concerned conversation between them, and then they came back to me. One of them explained that it was completely fine for me to be in ecstasy. I simply needed to do it silently, and in a controlled fashion. I did my best to successfully hold back further belly laughs, and returned to the lunch table changed man.

Eating is life. Celebrate food, celebrate your good fortune, honor the body, play the game of life, and allow yourself to have a beautiful soulful relationship with food – that is indeed your birthright to have.

I hope this was helpful my friends. Please email us at if you have specific questions and we will be sure to get back to you. Thanks so much for your time and interest!

In the comments below please let us know: What’s one of your favorite ways to help make your meals more of a nourishing experience? Marc personally reads every comment and does his best to respond. We love hearing your thoughts!

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