Book Review – Savor – Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

Catching up on your reading this summer? Check out the first of (hopefully) an ongoing series of book reviews by Wellspring School staff, students and alum! 

Title: Savor – Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, © 2011
Authors: Thich Nhat Hanh & Dr.Lilian Cheung
HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd street New York, NY 10022
ISBN: 978-0-06-169770-8 $15.99 paperback

What does a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar and peace activist have in common with the director of health promotion and communication at the Harvard School of Public Health? A book! On a recent trip, passing through an airport bookstore, my eye was instantly drawn to one book cover in particular. The bright intensity of a section of an orange topped with a simple word, “savor,” in an equally brilliant orange color piqued my curiosity. I read a little about the unique partnership between the two authors and their approach to nutrition and I had to find out more.

Part I of the book is entitled “A Buddhist Perspective on Weight Control.” I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of eating plan a Zen Master would recommend other than the basic temple foods I’d sampled while living in Asia. Diving into the first chapter was something like an “Aha!” moment because of its simplicity. The entire premise of the first chapter and book as a whole is so incredibly simple yet powerful. The key to weight control and life in general isn’t about a diet.  The key is in the concept of “mindfulness.” Being present, cultivating constant awareness of self and surroundings, are the constants that promote healthier living as a whole. The book spends a lot of time discussing the tools to do this via meditation, breathing and stronger connection to daily life practices. According to the authors there is indeed so much more to weight loss and health than just diet!

I very much appreciated the opportunity to be reminded that outside of the noises and distractions in today’s hectic society, the practice of “mindfulness” is an option that we can all choose in the pursuit of healthier living. Being aware of one’s own body, of what we put into our bodies and how we propel ourselves through daily life is an incredibly powerful tool. Having this perspective as an individual raises our awareness at a global level, which to the author seems a most important message to convey.

“Mindfulness also helps us look beyond packaging to see how we grow and where we get our food so that we can eat in a way that preserves our collective well-being and the well-being of our planet…We have to know what we are eating, where our food is from, and how it affects us.” (p.48)

With this straightforward and powerful philosophy as the book’s primary theme, I confess I was less interested in some of the nutritional specifics provided. Frankly, I found much of the nutritional advice to be at a pretty basic level and the “science” behind many of the statements somewhat limited, as well as not necessarily in alignment with my own practice philosophy. The book progresses through chapters on Mindful Eating, Mindful Moving, A Mindful Living Plan and culminates with thoughts on living in a Mindful World. The very last section brings everything to an appropriate close with the simple statement of “Savor Every Moment.”

While not necessarily the next required program text for a school or a standard nutritional reference manual for the practitioner’s office, it still has merit as a quick read if only for the aforementioned conscious living reminders. Cultivating mindfulness and awareness first and foremost in our diets is beneficial to clients, students, practitioners and individuals in general who value the concept that healthy living is more than just a weight loss plan. If anything, envision the brilliance of that orange segment, take a deep breath and just “savor” the moment wherever you are.

To purchase a copy of this book visit the website http://www.savorthebook.com/, or purchase from Amazon.com.

Reviewer: Rachael Myles, CHN, ABT

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