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Everyone, say hi to the book tour! “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life” stops by

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to review.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life is a Buddhist guide to healthy living and weight loss co-authored by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung. The former is a Zen master whose name looks like a word scramble of the phrase “Ninth hatch, hah!” Odd name aside, it must be pretty bad-ass to put the words “Zen Master” on your business cards, assuming Zen masters have business cards. Dr. Cheung is a lecturer and director of health promotion at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition. It must be pretty bad-ass to put the word “Harvard” on your business card too. Dr. Cheung is also a student of Hanh, who is a well-respected Buddhist monk.

Authors of Savor

I’m always slightly hesitant to read diet books because many of them retread the same ground. If you’re going to write a diet book, you’d better have something new to say or say it in a new way. Savor certainly meets those standards, presenting a plan for healthy living using the principles and truths of the Buddhist religion. The first half of the book is aptly titled, “A Buddhist Perspective on Weight Control,” and relates several philosophies of Buddhism, such as the four noble truths, the four nutriments that sustain us, and the four foundations of mindfulness. (You’ll have to read the book for more info on all that.) The second half, titled “Mindful Action Plans,” gives specific information on how to live a healthy life and how to incorporate that knowledge with the concepts related in the first half.

I found myself liking Savor, though probably more for the Buddhist concepts than for any information on carbohydrates. The theme of the book is that you should live your life mindfully. Savor every moment and sensation, every bite of an apple you eat, every breath of air you take in. Buddhists believe everything in the universe is connected and interdependent, so a weight problem is not something isolated to be fixed on its own, but part of the complex system of your emotional life, your society, and your thoughts. Your weight needs to be inspected and tended to on all those levels. By being present, aware, and observing yourself, you can recognize your suffering, find its root, and transform it into joy and inner peace.

Like I said, it’s very Buddhist.

A few ideas particularly clung to my mind:

  • One, that we are driven by “habit energy” in our lives, like a rider on a horse. “Where are you going?” someone will yell at the rider, who responds, “I don’t know. Ask the horse!” Savor asks you to look at behaviors in your life that are habit, and like the horse are taking you somewhere out of your control.
  • The authors also used a term, “sangha,” which refers to a group of like-minded people that help each other. Like the blogosphere! We’re our own little sangha, I guess.
  • Interestingly, one of the relaxation and breathing exercises in the book is pretty darn similar to a technique the behavioral psychologist at my headache clinic taught me.

One other thing that really made me dig this book was the use of wise-sounding analogies. I am a sucker for stories about a lotus in the mud or parents who eat their child’s flesh. Um, ok, maybe not the latter. But seriously, the parables made me think of concepts in a different way. Buddhism seems to be very much about accepting yourself, the bad and the good, and using the bad to foster the good, like you use trash in a compost heap. (Their analogy, not mine.) I guess I’m just a sucker for spiritual self-examination, particularly now that I’m almost 30 and trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of my life and what is the meaning of everything anyway if eventually all the stars will die and no one will exist to remember anything that happened on planet Earth, even though we all thought our lives were oh, so, very important at the time, but are basically an insignificant blip in the cosmos, like the life of that ant I just smashed into the carpet.

So, uh, back to the book.

Overall, I’d give it 3 out of 4 stars, because Buddhism seems to be big on the number four. It’s given me a lot to think about, and I’ll probably read up more on Buddhism. I’m not sure if it will stop me the next time I want to drive to CVS and buy a bag of M&M’s, but if it doesn’t, at least I’ll be mindful of what I’m doing.

You can buy Savor on Amazon.com. You can find a full list of the Savor blog tour stops here on the TLC Book Tours web site.

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20 Comments

Hunter • April 12, 2010 at 8:20 am

I’m so happy you reviewed this book. As a practicing Buddhist, this is one book I definitely would have checked out. I do tend to shovel the food in my mouth and this is something I NEED to work on ~ to slow down and “savor” each bite. I do like Thich Nhat Hahn, but I doubt he’s ever had a compulsive eating problem. Still, good advice. I think I will look into purchasing this book. I always like to have support on hand. And, kudos to your own book, “Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir”. It still is and always will be an inspiration to me. I refer to it often and it helps me to keep on track. Keep up the great work! =^..^=

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julia • April 12, 2010 at 8:43 am

If you get a chance buy the new book by Geneen Roth that Oprah just reviewed entitled “Women, food and God”.
Truly the best book I have EVER read on weight loss.

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Hal • April 12, 2010 at 10:38 am

I don’t know how much you know about Thich Nhat Hanh, but he has been writing books for a while and he is very practiced in meditation. His meditations pop up in my yoga classes fairly often. That may be why your headache clinic sounded so similar.

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Jen • April 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Thanks for the review — this sounds like a book I would enjoy. And by coming here to comment, I learned about another book I would be interested in from julia’s comment. We do have a pretty great sangha going here, I think.

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Rob • April 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I am WAY too pragmatic for this. Of course some people would say simpleminded.

Hey…. viva la difference!!!

Thanks!!

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Stephanie @ Momentum • April 12, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I have used Mindfulness in my battle with depression, but honestly never thought about applying it to my weight loss!. Great post!

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Bob • April 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I think anyone can take the ideas from this, Buddhist or not, and find ways to apply them. I had heard of the guy, but not this book, so thanks for reviewing it! He seems quite kind, full of wisdom anyone can use, Buddhist or not.

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Deb • April 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Hi,
I really enjoy your writing. You are funny and wise (beyond your years, I think)! Enjoy your life and your success — and, if need be — your M & Ms!

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Karen • April 12, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Interesting take on some concepts we have probably thought of before, but struggle to put into practice.

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Sheryl • April 13, 2010 at 9:14 am

It is true in many ways that people now have on-line sanghas. Those of us who share common problems and provide a sounding board and support via e-mail — that is not that different than those who meet in the same place for meditation or discussions.

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Pat • April 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

I am reading this book now and it is really worth the read. Has a lot to say about everything, not just weight loss. Godd one!

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Pat • April 13, 2010 at 9:52 am

That should be “Good one” I will be reading it several times.

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The Merry • April 13, 2010 at 11:03 am

It sounds like a book I should read.
I don’t usually do things that I should.
Even though they’d help.
Is there a book that will cure laziness?

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adrienne • April 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm

This sounds pretty compelling. My nutrition could use more mindfulness.

I just put a copy on hold and hope to be reading it by the weekend!

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Esmeralda M Rupp-Spangle • April 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm

This is proabably the first and only diet book I’ve ever actually considered buying.
Great review. And yeah. The universe in big and it’s really freaky to think about how short it all is, but that’s kinda what makes it awesome, you know?

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Libby • April 14, 2010 at 1:04 am

Huh, I didn’t realize he was a Zen Buddhist, and I read a couple of his books for a class on Buddhism. I guess I wasn’t paying very good attention….I guess I need the book.

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Cristina • April 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Pastaqueen, you convinced me and I just bought the book, through your amazon link. I never read anything budhist before, but your review was very compelling. Let’s wait till the book arrives.

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Mr. Meltdown • April 20, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I might have to give that book a read it seems very interesting. hmmmm would I be bad ass if I changed my name to BLOG MASTER? LOL :)

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trish • April 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm

HA! You SLAYED me. Love your review, and I’m totally with you on the big analagies. They help my brain process concepts, I think.

Thanks for being on this tour!

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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