Eat the Lotus...
In Homer’s epic tale The Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew are thrown off the course of their journey by a terrible storm that forced their ship to land on a mysterious island. There they encounter a peaceful race of native inhabitants who spend their days celebrating the natural bounty of their island, particularly the fruit of the lotus, which they willingly share with the newcomers. Their leisurely way of life is so enchanting that the crew seem to abandon their journey, requiring Odysseus to drag his men away. “Quick, no time to lose,” the goal-oriented captain shouted in command as his crew departed the enchanting island with tears streaming down their faces.[i]
But, instead of viewing the lotus eaters as a threat or only a source of a hasty meal, Odysseus might have learned something from these lotus eaters, a lesson we modern folk could also use: that while setting and attaining goals is important, so is enjoying the journey.
And that is the goal of Lotus Eater
In our 30s and 40s many of us are not yet thinking about how healthy we will be once we enter middle-age or our elder years. During this period of our lives we are often still focused on building careers and raising young families or just making ends meet!
But, diseases that are typically associated with advanced age, like diabetes and hypertension, don’t develop overnight: in large part they are the result of the lifestyle we lived in these critical they are the result of the lifestyle choices made in this pre-middle age period. The single biggest risk factor for the development of type II diabetes is being overweight or obese.[ii]
While established careers and more stable personal lives may lead toward consideration of improving or modifying our behaviors in a way that would promote long-term health, such efforts can be hobbled by our own lack of self-confidence. Knowing what we should eat for the best health can seem like a daunting task, but a core concept of mindful eating and the Lotus Eater philosophy is that you already know what a healthful diet is. All that is necessary to achieve an overall healthful diet is to keep what you already know in mind and to believe that you, not only have the power to change, but also that your health and happiness are worth focusing on.[iii]
You don’t need a PhD in medicine to know what a healthy diet looks like. But, knowing how to eat well and actually doing it are two entirely different skills. We all understand maintaining a healthy weight depends on practicing moderation, but to do this we have to keep some track of what we’ve eaten and listen to our bodies. That’s where mindfulness comes in.
The growing field of mindfulness research indicates that simply increasing one’s awareness—being present for meals—helps people adjust their food intake in the long-term to account for previous eating.[iv]
One simple way to understand mindfulness, both as a lifestyle and a dietary approach, is the act of slowing down. Simply eating slower has been found to reduce overall calorie consumption. It also increases reported enjoyment of meals. Thus, by increasing our awareness around meals we can choose healthier foods, eat better, and take greater pleasure in our food and our lives.
 Science Confirms Diet Tactic: Eat Slow, Eat Less. Livescience. November 15, 2006. https://www.livescience.com/1124-science-confirms-diet-tactic-eat-slow-eat.html. Accessed September 1, 2018.
[i] Fagles, Robert, Homer’s The Oddyssey. New York, NY: Penguin Boiks; 1996.
[ii] Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes. The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan Public School of Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/disease-prevention/diabetes-prevention/preventing-diabetes-full-story. Accessed September 3, 2018.
[iii] Williams GC, McGregor HA, Zeldman A, Freedman ZR, Deci EL.Testing a self-determination theory process model for promoting glycemic control through diabetes self-management. Health Psychol. 2004;23(1):58-66. doi: 10.1037/0278-622.214.171.124.
[iv] Oaklander M. Can You Lose Weight On the Mindfulness Diet? Time. April 27, 2018. http://time.com/4306564/mindfulness-diet-meditation. Accessed September 4, 2018.