1 comment on “Practicing Gratifood: Five Steps to Eating Mindfully”

Practicing Gratifood: Five Steps to Eating Mindfully


Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” -Denis Waitley

What people usually mean when they say “gratifood” is the process of applying gratitude to food. Infusing appreciation into what we eat, being mindful every step of the way, and practicing awareness that food is something to be thankful for.

Step 1: Get connected to each step of the process.

Gratifood begins before you start cooking. It begins before you decide what’s for dinner. It begins in your mind as a mental checklist of all the things that have to happen for you to be able to eat.

If you think for a moment about all the steps food takes before it ends up on your plate, you will instantly feel more connected to the process. Taking it a step further, if you specifically think about each step your food has taken to get to you, the more and more and more you will feelappreciation.

AJ Jacobs, author of “Thanks a Thousand,” realized how much he took for granted his morning cup of coffee. So, he set out on a journey to thank all the people that make his morning ritual possible. What he quickly realized is that the amount of people to thank is infinite: every person he thanked would not have been able to do what they do without the help of countless other people. Everyone from the cashier that rings him up at the grocery store, to the roaster, to the farmer, to the truck driver, to the workers who maintain the roads. He thanks a thousand people in the book, and the ultimate moral of the story is that there are far more people to thank than he possibly could in one lifetime. And that’s just for one small daily ritual–coffee.

Getting connected to the process starts by asking, “If I trace this food—say it’s peanut butter—back to where it began, where does that take me?” As AJ found out, there is an infinite number of components to thank, and there’s no need to do this process of thankfulness ad-nauseum. At some point during the process of cooking, remember to bring to mind the fact that it’s a series of small miracles that you have the variety and quality of food that you do.

When you become aware of the infinite level of thanks you can give for any given food item, and you begin to apply that level of gratitude to the many ingredients you use in any given meal, you can begin to feel an appropriate level of appreciation for the food you’re about to eat.

Step 2: Pour your heart’s loving energy into the food.

Even if it means taking longer to cook, allowing your day’s pent-up positive energy to overflow into the process of cooking can transform the way you make food. Cooking can be a structured outlet into which you can process those positive emotions. And yes, positive emotions need to be processed too! By creating a meal this way, you can transfer your positive emotions into a new form–food–and experience them all over again! One of the most powerful positive emotions you can use to enhance this effect is gratitude. It’s not necessarily about what you eat as much as it is about how you eat. Eating starts before you take the first bite. We all know this and if we need proof, all we have to do is conjure up the image of a brimming mug of hot chocolate and imagine touching it to our lips for the first foamy sip, tasting the sweet cocoa powder and cinnamon.


Step 3: Curate your dining environment.

At this point we’ve learned to put appreciation, love and thanks into the different steps of cooking in order to create a meal that’s infused with gratifood. Now it’s time to set the stage. It’s encouraged to create a space in which you feel comfortable eating. A place where you can complete the act of eating with full presence and little distraction. It’s important to consider everything from ambiance, lighting and decor to the types of utensils you eat with.

Did you ever consider you might appreciate your meal more simply by changing the dishware you’re using? It makes sense that you would enjoy your morning beverage more if you are drinking it from a mug that you bought specifically because looking at it brings you joy! You should be able to tell the story of everything you own, and especially the items you use to eat with. Because unlike a baseball glove or pair of pants, you are ingesting the energy of that plate or bowl every time you eat.

And just because the word energy is used, that doesn’t it make it woo-woo. Extending your mindfulness about eating to what you cook with and eat off of can have measurable health benefits. Did you know that changing the type of pan you cook with can help oxygenate your blood? Every time you cook with a cast iron pan you’re boosting your iron intake. Since iron is an essential nutrient that every cell in the body needs to transport oxygen in the blood and myoglobin in muscles, it’s safe to say that the type of pan you cook with has the power to make you a healthier person.

Step 4: Eat with others and if you are eating alone, eat alone.

Now that the meal is ready and the stage is set, it’s a good time to customize the gratifood experience based around who you are eating with.

If you are eating alone, make sure to commit fully to eating alone. Understand that you can experience gratifood just as much alone as you can at a communal meal. Make sure to eliminate distractions. There’s some gray area here and use your good judgment. If you are going to consume content while eating, make sure whatever music you are playing or podcast you are listening to contributes to the feelings of gratitude and appreciation you’ve cultivated thus far.

Remember, digestion starts before taking the first bite. Having content playing in the background, especially video can change your focus in way that inhibits proper digestion. Think about it. Ever watched a suspenseful movie and actually felt it in your body? You’re hanging on the edge of your seat with a pit in your stomach and breathing shallowly. You’ve experienced how the type of content you’re consuming can have real effects on your physiology. And if the content puts you in a fight or flight physiological response, you can see how it would disrupt digestion, which occurs optimally when the body is in a rest and relaxation state.

If you have nothing to distract yourself with, your food becomes your company. You will chew your food well, enjoy every bite to the maximum, and significantly slow the rate at which you eat. You will get to know your food like a close friend.

Did you know it can take up to twenty minutes for the body to send signals of satiety? Most people’s meals don’t even last that long! If you eat slowly, you will probably end up eating less, which in most cases is a good thing. Mindful eating allows you to more appropriately gauge when you should stop eating based off the body’s satiety versus the default gauge people usually use, which is stomach fullness.

Step 5: Dedicate the first 10 bites you take.

I’m going to step in to the first person here for a moment and tell you a little story. It takes place in a rural county in Virginia, at an off-the-beaten-path retreat center called Yogaville. I stayed there for one month during the summer of 2015. Everyone living at the facility and doing the work trade program ate communal meals together. The big meals would be served in a dining hall, and prior to taking the first bite, we would usually go around in a circle and everyone would dedicate the first bite of their meal. This was our version of gratifood. Sometimes we would go around in the circle and we’d do several of these very slow, grateful bites before we started eating at a normal pace. This allowed us to thoroughly infuse each bite with appreciation.

Know that if you take nothing else from this article, if you remember the 10 bites rule, you will be practicing gratitude. Before beginning to eat at your normal pace, eat ten bites mindfully and slowly. Between each bite, bring to mind someone or something you are grateful for and dedicate that bite accordingly.

The five steps to practicing gratifood are your friend. Start small, but make sure to start somewhere. A great place to start is by choosing one of the five steps that resonate most with you and apply it to one of your meals this week. When done on a regular basis, mindful eating has the power to change your thoughts, emotional state, and physical health.


BioPicEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Tim Brogan. Tim is currently an Ithaca-based yogi and traveler whose motto is “step into your purpose and share it with clarity.”

Subscribe to his Living is Learning Podcast and YouTube channel: @timbrogan. Website: topselfdevelopment.com

7 comments on “4 Steps to Get Lean in Today’s Fattening Society”

4 Steps to Get Lean in Today’s Fattening Society

By Shannon Leavitt, M.S., R.D.

It’s no secret that modern life makes it tough to ignore popular food trends and lead a healthy lifestyle. Today, being sedentary and consuming the food industry’s addictive combinations of fat, salt, and sugar is simply easier than being active and preparing or procuring healthy food. It doesn’t help that we are continuously subjected to double messages about body image and health that are disheartening and confusing and result in either a desperation to change or passivity. The message to look like a model clashes with the fact that being out of shape is the new normal.

It’s easy to be seduced by the latest fast fitness or diet plans that are peddled in the guise of a real solution, even though, as is widely known, these programs are rarely effective and sometimes even harmful. The highest goal of a wellness plan needs to go beyond just losing pounds to learning the lifestyle that will improve your health and keep weight off for good.

Here are four steps to becoming leaner in 2017 and for life:

  1. Embrace a holistic lifestyle. A holistic lifestyle focuses on health first, weight loss second, and is the only sensible approach to lasting results. Creating health needs to be a conscious process, a lifestyle, not a short-lived program. Holism is about balanced living. It is the necessarily slower approach that works better than ‘fast fitness’ because it gradually brings more of you on board with a realistic plan and teaches you how to sustain your results.
  1. Stop living in Overdrive Mode. Rushing and multitasking are stressful and too often result in reactive and unconscious, unhealthy choices. Slowing down encourages a deeper self-connection that in the long run helps you identify problematic habits, make more conscious choices, and ultimately overcome obstacles. Take a minute to ask yourself whether how you typically spend your time is moving you towards health or in the opposite direction.
  1. Support Yourself. When it comes to reaching health goals research shows that supporting yourself with a  ‘kind to self’ approach is more effective than a ‘tough on self’ approach. So don’t make the harsh mistake of withholding self-love and acceptance until you’ve arrived at what you consider to be an acceptable body size or fitness level. There is much to be learned about your self from where you are currently, and a compassionate ear is more likely to be open to receive that important wisdom.
  1. Do Yoga. Often underestimated as a weight loss tool, yoga is the epitome of holistic living and therefore a viable path to sustainable weight loss. The ancient, yet, accessible practice offers both challenging fitness and a body-mind-spirit integration system complete with pragmatic guidelines for balanced living. As yoga strengthens, stretches and twists you into amazing shape, the “on and off the mat” practice combination aligns you with your strongest Self to provide a slow but sure pathway out of old habits toward healthier, new ones.

Most get fit quick workout and diet plans end in frustration, rebound weight gain and a compromised metabolism. Accept that there are no short cuts to true health, but that there are wise paths. Holistic living is one of them.


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Shannon Leavitt, M.S., R.D.  Based in Minneapolis, Shannon is the founder of Yogalift®, a holistic wellness program, and author of Learn to be Lean: A Yoga-Based Approach to Healthy Weight Loss. She is a licensed dietitian, hatha yoga instructor, NASM-certified personal trainer, and a professional health coach with a certificate from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing.

To learn more about Shannon Leavitt please visit YogaLift.com.  Learn to be Lean is available on Amazon and other major online retailers.

Photo credit: lululemon on Instagram


12 comments on “8 Sattvic Foods to Help Balance Your Body and Mind”

8 Sattvic Foods to Help Balance Your Body and Mind

He who practices yoga without moderation of diet, incurs various diseases, and obtains no success.” (Gheranda Samhita 5/16)

sattvic-treeA branch cannot survive on its own. It must connect to the tree trunk and roots in order to absorb the elements and thrive in nature.

Neither yoga nor Ayurveda are singular practices. They are more like branches on the tree of Vedic wisdom.

In order to maintain balance, there must be a constant exchange between the individual and the universe. The way we eat, breathe, drink, and live must be harmonious. When it is not, we are in a state of dis-ease.

This is the main philosophy of yoga: Mind, body, and spirit are one and cannot be separated. Yogic philosophies recognize food as being responsible for the growth of the body. This is why it is often called Brahman, or God.

Food is sacred.

In addition to yoga and meditation, food plays an important role in balancing the body from within. If you are looking to achieve physical strength, sound mind, good health, and longevity, you’ll want to shift your focus to sattvic foods. These are the purest types of food you can consume, according to Ayurvedic principles.

Sattvic foods can help enhance your practice and promote a calm mind and fit body with a balanced flow of energy between the two. The soul depends on the body and the body depends on food.

The basic principles of the sattvic diet consist of light and easily digestible food. Many are sun foods, meaning they grow above ground, and have a fast effect on the body’s nervous and digestive systems.

Include the following foods in your daily diet to promote holistic wellness and to help bring your mind, body, and soul into alignment.

  1. Ghee

sattvic-berriesGhee, sometimes called clarified butter, is sweet tasting, cold, and heavy. This is one of the most talked about sattvic foods because its importance has been reflected upon in the ancient Vedas. Rice mixed with ghee and soma juice is considered the diet of God. Because there are different Ayurvedic elements in different types of milk, the properties of ghee will depend on its source. The most common, and most often recommended, is ghee from cow’s milk. Milk is unique because it contains the best nutrients a mother can provide. And ghee is considered the essence of milk. Incorporating ghee in Ayurvedic treatment is as easy as making it at home, a process that can be completed in about 30 minutes.

  1. Sprouted Whole Grains

According to sattvic tradition, grains should be a vital part of every meal. Yogis may sometimes fast from grains, but they are included as an important part of a sattvic diet. Whole sprouted grains provide nourishment and are symbolic of health, happiness, and prosperity. Consider adding sprouted rice, spelt, oatmeal, and barley to your meals. There’s a great deal of variety, so you can easily include a grain with every meal. Just be sure to avoid leavened breads.

  1. Fresh Organic Fruit

For the most part, any fresh organic fruit can be included in the sattvic diet, but there are some exceptions. Avocados and tomatoes are considered rajasic and should never be consumed in excess. But you’re safe to eat most fruits, including apples, bananas, berries, grapes, melons, oranges, peaches, and plums. These are considered especially sattvic. Yogis may also fast from fruits, but otherwise, they are an important part of the sattvic diet. They are considered symbols of generosity and spirituality. Eating fruits and vegetables is believed to increase one’s magnetism.

  1. Honey

Honey is on the short list of sweeteners that is acceptable to use in moderation in a sattvic diet.    Brown rice syrup, fruit juice concentrates, maple syrup, sucanat, and sugar cane juice are also acceptable in moderation. Avoid processed white sugar if at all possible.

  1. Organic Land and Sea Vegetables

You’d be safe eating almost any vegetable on a sattvic diet, but you may run into trouble if you’re in the habit of cooking with garlic and onions. These vegetables, along with hot peppers, mushrooms, and potatoes are not considered sattvic. Stick with mild, organic veggies, such as beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, green leafies, sweet potatoes, and squash. Juicing vegetables is a fast and easy way to access their prana (life-giving force).

  1. Nuts, Seeds, and Oils

Soaking nuts and seeds overnight will remove their natural enzyme inhibitors and make them easier for your body to digest. Choose fresh, pure nuts or seeds. If they have been overly roasted or salted, they lose their sattvic properties. Almonds, hemp seeds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds are all great choices. Most oils should be consumed raw, but some can be used in cooking. These include ghee, sesame oil, and coconut oil.

  1. Legumes

Legumes are another important part of a sattvic diet, and the smaller the better. Smaller beans, such as mung beans, split peas, and lentils, are easier to digest. You may also enjoy chickpeas, aduki beans, and organic tofu. For a complete protein source, combine legumes with whole grain.

  1. Herbs

Herbs directly support the mind and are often used in conjunction with meditation. Common sattvic herbs include:

Just as yoga and Ayurveda aren’t singular practices, neither is nutrition. These sattvic foods consumed on their own may have nutritional benefits, but do not expect to receive the full benefits of a sattvic diet unless you are taking a more holistic approach. In order to be in harmony with the way we eat, drink, breathe, and live, we must approach wellness from a higher perspective. Together, yoga, meditation, nutrition, and herbal supplements can help ground the body and enlighten the mind.


Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lindsay Olsen. Lindsay is a freelance content writer for prAna, an avid fitness and yoga enthusiast, and new mom to be!

0 comments on “How to Overcome the “Blahs””

How to Overcome the “Blahs”

Do you ever feel “blah?” As I write this I am glancing from my computer screen to a window that is streaked with rain. Through the blurred glass I see the gray water of Bellingham Bay and the  eternally gray Washington sky. I suddenly feel tired and in need of a hot bath and my bed. But it’s only 10 in the rainy-windowmorning. I just feel so tired. The way I feel can be summed up in one word, “blah.” Maybe I just need some more coffee and a chocolate stuffed croissant. That should give me the energy I’m craving, right?

Now, I have been here, in this situation, many times before and even though I’m back in Washington only for a visit, the old habits are kicking in. The gray sky and rainy weather send my energy down and my reaction is to gulp caffeine and eat sugar. Although delicious, this short-term fix can take me up and then crash me down hard. Usually, this combination results in more exhaustion as well as crankiness. I don’t want to continue with the old habits so here’s what I’m going to do instead, and if you ever feel the same way, maybe you’ll join me.

childs-poseFirst, I’m going to rest in Child’s Pose, which is perhaps the most comforting yoga pose (step-by-step instruction below). I find that it brings groundedness and quiet to my body and mind allowing for more peace and silence within. Rather than crawling under the covers of my bed to sleep off this fatigue, I’m going to rest in child’s pose to calm my brain and relieve the stress and tiredness in my body. This gentle pose also stretches my hips, thighs, and ankles, which are in need of some TLC after sitting in an uncomfortable chair for a few hours this morning.

banana-smoothie-happy-smoothie3Next, I’m going to blend up a delicious banana-almond-flax smoothie. This specific blend (see recipe below) is sweet, creamy, and fights the low energy and depressed moods I often experience this time of year when spring is in sight but the cold, gray, wet winter is still clinging on. The potassium in the bananas is also a stress-buster and who couldn’t use a little stress relief?

While sipping on my smoothie I’m going to put on some of my favorite music and write in my gratitude journal. Today I’m feeling the need for some high-energy tunes so I put on Florence and The Machine. Her powerful voice and funky beats inspire and energize me. My gratitude journal is home to what I love in any particular moment. Sometimes I write down one thing, sometimes I write down 20. No matter the number, each item is something I am wholeheartedly grateful for. Today that list includes a view of the bay, my best friend who has added sparkle and comfort to my life for over 10 years, yummy smelling candles, gentle and juicy yoga classes, and the unwavering love and support of my mom.

me-dancingI have completely forgotten about the coffee and chocolate stuffed croissant, it actually doesn’t sound good anymore. And my energy is flowing again from my toes to my fingers. The truth? I feel alive. I really do. My heart is expressing gratitude for this gray day instead of dread, my mind is sparking creative ideas like corn in a popper, and I’m now, for the first time, noticing the birds filling their bellies with seed from a window feeder. Hmmmm, what else is there to explore on this magnificent day…..

Child’s Pose

  1. Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
  2. Sit up tall, imagining a line is pulling you from the crown of your head to the ceiling. Keep your shoulders down and chin level with the floor.
  3. Bring your hands, head and chest down towards the floor slowly. Lay your head on the floor, if possible, with your arms stretched forward on the floor. Allow your hips and pelvis to settle in between your heels and inner thighs.
  4. Stretch the base of your head away from the neck leaving your forehead resting on the floor, feeling a nice stretch in the back of the neck.
  5. Circle your arms around to your sides with your palms facing up. Allow your shoulders to sink towards the floor letting your natural body weight pull them down, stretching the shoulder blades across your back.
  6. Breathe, rest, enjoy.

Banana-Almond-Flax Smoothie

  • 1 medium or large banana, preferably frozen, sliced
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, yogurt or almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon roasted unsalted almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseeds
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
  • A couple of drops of almond extract or vanilla

Place all of the ingredients in a blender, along with a few ice cubes if the bananas have not been previously frozen. Blend until smooth. Yield: One serving.


Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Amanda Upton, a life coach, career coach, educator and yoga teacher based out of Brattleboro, Vermont.  Her passion is supporting men and women in creating a life they really want and love.  Along with putting her heart and soul into her work, she dances wherever and whenever she can, swims in lakes, oceans, swimming holes, and pools, practices yoga on and off the mat, and cooks lots of veggies and Mexican food.  Visit her website, rootdowncoaching.com, follower her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.