Food for thought: 18 Reasons' class series encourages the slow chew

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PHOTO COURTESY 18 REASONS

Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. The axiom certainly sounds nice rolling off the tongue, but curative qualities aside, you'll never stick to healthy if it doesn't taste good. Luckily here in the Bay Area we have Carley Hauck of Intuitive Wellness, who proves in her "Mindful Eating and Cooking" series at community food hub 18 Reasons that comestibles can indeed be medicinal, and that medicine can taste amazing.

Health nuts and epicureans alike can revel in Hauck’s multi-layered, multi-course classes, in which students learn a comprehensive approach to mindful eating and cooking. This means all hands on deck -- as well as all eyes, noses, mouths and minds -- everyone in Hauck's seminars are required to take a participatory role in this adventure for the taste buds. 

“In graduate school, I was teaching a weight-loss class and realized there was something missing," Hauck told the Guardian in an email interview. When not teaching at 18 Reasons, she's the president of Intuitive Wellness, where she works as a integrative life coach and wellness consultant in San Francisco and Berkeley.  

"I added the mindfulness component and saw that it really was the missing link," she continued. "It’s not so much about looking outside of ourselves -- adding up calories and exercising -- but really about tuning in and understanding physical hunger but also emotional hunger.” Hauck is part of a research group at UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine that is pioneering research, and looking at the long-term benefits of mindful eating in relation to stress reduction and weight loss. She also works with with corporate organizations like Pixar and LinkedIn, teaching mindfulness classes to corporate eaters.

“That’s the type of work that I do,” she wrote. “But the piece of work that I love is teaching classes which integrate these same practices into the broader community.”

You don’t have to be a downward-dog yogi to approach the dinner table with a sense of mindfulness. In the most pragmatic sense, Hauck defines mindful eating as the simple process of slowing the mind to pause the mouth from our oft-unconscious snack-shoveling. It’s about bringing intention to the processes of cooking and consuming, cultivating an appreciation for each ingredient’s unique feel, flavor, and smell. From morsel to mouthful, being mindful is about slowing down and savoring, rather than inhaling. 

The first class in Hauck's 18 Reasons series was held on April 2, but if you missed it not to worry. There are two more on the way, and according to Hauck, each session “is created to be a stand-alone class which builds on techniques in mindfulness.”

Session two, “Food as Medicine”,  takes place on Saturday, and is focused on the healing properties of super foods. The antioxidant-charged menu, which Hauk was putting together right before our phone conversation, is geared to re-invigorate the body and stimulate the mind.

The goal is to “create really healing food varieties and also bring an intention into the process of cooking.” said Hauck. “It’s very experiential. We’re doing guided meditations, having great discussion, and we’re saying ‘Hey! Pick your knives and chop!’”

Hauk’s series opener “Intro to India” turned up the heat, focusing on Southern Indian cuisine while tackling the kitchen-borne insecurities of the average chef. “I hear from people that they are very intimidated by cooking” said Hauk, a fact she intends to put on ice. “This is a cooking class where we’re really teaching them about mindful eating and mindful cooking, but were also teaching them to be good cooks. I want to get people comfortable with something that they may think is hard.”

This love has brought her into the community at 18 Reasons and in a sense, full circle. Her lifework is not only corporate, but it is also deeply rooted in community. The common thread here of course is food -- mindfully approaching food as a medicine and taking pleasure in all its gastronomical variations -- and you shouldn’t need more than 18 reasons to eat amazing food that is good for the body, mind and soul.

The Mindful Eating Cooking Series: Food as Medicine

May 21, 6:30 pm, $50

18 Reasons

3674 18th St., SF

www.18reasons.org

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