HOW is your relationship with food? It’s almost a strange kind of question to ask. It’s not the sort of thing one would ask of any other living thing on the planet, with the possible exception of our pets. Most animals just search around and eat as much as they can or need at any opportunity they get.

They don’t go to the shops with a list, or ponder over which brand of cereal to buy. Only we humans bring complexity to food choices and eating. Only we deliberately and knowingly eat things we know might cause us harm in the long term. Only we overeat and feel we can’t prevent ourselves from doing so. Only we under-eat or reject food that we have already eaten because we’re afraid we might add fat to our body.

And yet eating in or dining out are also focal points for our most important celebrations, for friends to connect, for family to sit together, for a couple to have privacy and intimacy.

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At one level it’s just about fuel and repair work. Our eons-honed instincts tell us when to eat, what to eat, and how to eat. The food gets broken down and separated into parts that can be burned up to give us energy to do what we need to do in life, or into parts that we need to maintain and repair the otherwise always-decaying human body we comprise of.

There’s a very interesting course that starts this month in Glasgow about Mindful Eating. It’s a rare opportunity for you to learn about your own relationship to food, how you eat, why you eat the way you do, and what mindfulness practice can do to enable us to experience more and gain more joy in the moments of preparing, sharing and eating food.

We can of course blame the outside world for all our dysfunctional relationships with food. Relentless advertising of junk food. Aisles upon aisles in our supermarkets dedicated to food that has little intrinsic nutritional value. The busy nature of our lives, seeming to leave us little time to be with our food, let alone mindfully contemplate and experience it.

But here’s a reality check. None of that is going to change. So you have to be the one that changes. The Glasgow mindfulness course explores nine different forms of hunger, including each of the five senses. How does your mind respond when it sees something it loves to eat, or when it smells a favourite meal when you walk by a Chinese restaurant?

Learn to consider food and eating as part of your attempts to live more mindfully. My preferred way is not to try to analyse and find out “things” about how I eat or perceive food. Rather I allow myself simply to notice, and allow the insights gained from noticing to slip into my mind subtly and gently. It has taken you all your life to create the habitual way to you eat and relate to food. You’re unlikely to change it overnight. So just take your time, observe what it actually happening in body and mind, and see if, in time, you can move to a less forced approach to food and eating, and find a newer, freer, and more uplifting relationship.

This is a very personal topic for me. Apart from the disadvantage of growing up in Scotland surrounded by an endless array of sweets as a child, I also had a momentary jolt on the subject of food. One day, eating with my myriad brothers and sisters at home, I said to my mother that I didn’t like the meat she had cooked, maybe because it had garlic or something new to me at that time. My father simply said: “Eat it. People die because they don’t have food.” His mother died of starvation. He had been the witness to this, unable to help because he too was fading away, malnourished. He was just 19.

Food is precious and beautiful. So is your body, and your life. Try to cultivate love and appreciation of food, and enjoy eating mindfully.

For information about the Minful Eating course, which begins on January 20, visit the "courses" section of