I’ve come to dread the weekly appearance of the “HSPH Update” email from the Harvard School of Public Health.
In one form or another, there’s usually a put-down of red meat, either by insinuation in a “how-to-eat-healthy” advice column or by the barely concealed glee evident in a summary of some research study pointing toward an association between red meat consumption and a really bad outcome.
Usually early death, if not worse.
The official stance of those responsible for the school’s newsletter is unabashedly pro-Meatless Mondays, and I have to believe that if it were up to them, that campaign would be changed to Meatless Meals—period.
This week was different, however, as it contained a link to a July 13 blog on the Huffington Post by writer Amy Spies, who explored the “mindful eating” concept espoused by Lilian Cheung, director of Health Promotion and Communication in Harvard University’s Department of Nutrition and editorial director of the HSPH online website The Nutrition Source.
Dr. Cheung’s credentials are impressive. She is author or co-author of “Child Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity,” “Eat Well & Keep Moving,” a nutrition and physical activity program for elementary students, and“ Be Healthy! It's A Girl Thing,” written for adolescent girls to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.
More to the point of the HSPH heads-up, Cheung is also co-author with Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanhof the 2010 book “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life,” which—for once—doesn’t trash the consumption of red meat and by implication, all those engaged in its production.
The trade-off, however, is that mindful eating apparently requires some seriously mindful reading. Here’s the lead of the Huff Post blog that is supposed to “tease you” into exploring the subject:
“You fold a tiny raisin into your hand, perhaps thinking about the journey it made to reach you, farmers planting seeds, nature providing water. You squeeze the creases of the aged, dried grape, maybe feeling the wrinkles as the hands that picked the ripened fruit had done. You smell the raisin, probably something you never bothered to do before, potentially remembering jellies or toast that oozed this odor, and where you were, what you were doing. And then, finally, you bite, careful not to swallow at first. You sense the juices squirting out. Your taste buds salivate, even if you always thought raisins were squirmy things packed in your lunch or stuck in bread.”