November 2016 Issue of Mpower Magazine


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Content of the November Issue:

  • Mpowering Main Article: Make time for what matters: Mindful Eating
  • Mpowering Quote
  • Mpowering Meme
  • Mpowering Affirmation
  • Mpowering Prompt
  • Living in the south of France: My Neighbour’s Minder
  • Photos from the south of France: Autumn in the Vineyards
  • News from the south of France: Les Vendanges Tardives de Viella
  • Mpowering free Download of the month: Chapter 1 of Eating Mindfully by Susan Albers
  • Mpowering Links featuring Molly Stevens
  • New on the Mpower Blog

Mpowering Main Article

Make Time for what Matters: Mindful Eating


Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means roast turkey with chestnut truffle stuffing, home-made cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with Parmesan cheese, maple-glazed carrots with pecan nuts, green bean casserole with bacon, cast-iron skillet cornbread, caramelised sweet potatoes and a pumpkin pie with a walnut crust. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving here in France. Our festive seasons starts with Saint Nicholas, on the sixth of December. St Nicolas is followed by the traditional Christmas Reveillon dinner on the 24th. Next is the New Year’s Eve Reveillon on the 31st: a feast that starts around ten o’clock on New Year’s Eve and continues to at least five o’clock the next morning. Our festive season ends with Epiphany, on the sixth of January, a full month after the start of the season on the sixth of December. At Epiphany, we eat large quantities of the Gateaux des Trois Rois, trying to find a minuscule but tooth-breaking figurine hidden somewhere inside the cake.

Most of us will eat a substantial amount of food and drink much more than we usually do, during the next month. Many of us will also put on a substantial amount of weight. Reflecting on this seemingly-unavoidable outcome, I thought I should talk about mindful eating in this month’s edition of my Mpower magazine. My aim with this month’s leading article is to empower you not to wake up on the seventh of January feeling like a stuffed pig with several unwelcome pounds of fat determinedly clinging to you in all the most unwanted places.

Mindful eating can help you avoid this unsavoury experience. I am not making this up. There is solid scientific evidence that back up this statement (link). So at the start of yet another holiday season characterised by decadently delicious and impossible-to-resist delicacies, you may want to take an in-depth look at the concept of mindful eating. Why? Because mindful eating will help you:

  • fully appreciate and savour everything you eat,
  • avoid eating and drinking so much that you end up feeling like an over-stuffed sausage,
  • get to January with having put on a single pound.

What is mindful eating, aka mindfulness-based intuitive eating?

Mindful eating is not about dieting. It has absolutely nothing to do with the deprivation that characterises most diets. Mindful eating is about celebrating food. It is about rejoicing in the enjoyment that lovingly prepared food and expertly produced wine can give us. During the holiday season, mindful eating is also about sharing home-made and often home-grown favourites with our friends and family, our nearest and dearest. Mindful eating is something that we have been doing in France for many centuries.

Mindful eating is about paying attention to what you are eating. When you eat mindfully, you concentrate on and savour every sensation you experience while eating a melt-in-the-mouth bite or drinking a never-to-be-forgotten sip.

What are the benefits of mindful eating?

Mindful eating can help you to feel better about your body because mindful eating also involves non-judgemental awareness. It can help you lose weight, keep the weight off, manage pre-diabetes/diabetes and cope with chronic eating disorders.

How does one eat mindfully?

It is very simple. To ensure that not a single taste-sensation escapes you, you have to use all five your senses while you are eating and drinking.

Start by looking closely at what you are eating. Notice the various elements that your meal consist of. Try to guess what each bite is going to taste like, by looking at it. Does the turkey look over-cooked, under-cooked or roasted to perfection? Has it been glazed? Any visible indication of what it has been glazed with? What is the colour of the cranberry sauce? Light red, copper red, plum-red or dark red? How might the colour affect the taste? What does the mash look like? Light and airy or thick and creamy? How did the chef cut the carrots? Rounds or sticks? Pay attention to the shapes, colours and textures of the food in front of you.
Notice how you respond to the sight of all this scrumptious-looking food. Does your mouth start to water? Are you looking forward to your first bite? What do you love and what do you prefer to avoid?

Pay careful attention to the aromas that you can smell. Can you smell any garlic? Onions? Rosemary? Thyme? Does what you see and what you smell compliment each other? Can your nose help you guess what each bite is going to taste like? Any aromas that clash, or that you do not like?

What do you hear? People may be chatting excitedly around you. Festive music may be playing in the background. You may hear a champagne cork pop. If you bring your champagne glass to your ear, you may be able to hear the bubbles bursting.

Taste and Feel
Go on, take your first bite. Pay attention to the texture and the feel of the food in your mouth. Listen to the sound it makes when you chew. Is it crunchy? Smooth and creamy? Of what exactly does it taste? Can you identify the various flavourings? How salty is is? How sweet? Or is it tart, like the cranberry sauce? Too tart? Does it taste homemade? What does it remind you of? How does it compare with last year’s turkey? Chew slowly and savour each bite.

Pay attention to the sensation of swallowing. Are you swallowing too much at once? Do you swallow before you have finished chewing? Are you starting to feel full? If you are starting to feel full, put your knife and fork down. You do not need to feel obliged to drink or eat more than you want. You do not have to eat something that you do not like.

Non-judgemental Awareness
Be mindful of the thoughts that pop into your head. You may notice that you are eating more than you want because you do not to hurt your hostess’s feelings. You may notice that you are eating too fast and drinking too much. You may become aware that you feel intimidated about eating in front of other people. You may notice that you feel obliged to eat everything on your plate or to eat something that you do not want. Mindful eating means that you notice these thoughts, but you do not engage with them. You do not start beating yourself up because you are eating for the wrong reasons. You do not have a go at yourself for eating or drinking too much.

Not engaging emotionally with your thoughts enables you to look at them objectively and to choose how you are going to react. You can choose to make yourself miserable for the rest of the evening. Or you can choose to eat and drink more mindfully from that moment on.

You can choose to do one thing at a time. You can choose to stop eating or drinking while you are listening or taking part in the conversation. When you are eating, you are eating mindfully. When you are listening, you are listening attentively. When you are talking, you are giving the conversation your full attention. Find out what other people think of a dish, what flavourings they have noticed. French people do this a lot. It is great fun to try and guess the exact ingredients, seasonings and flavourings that the cook has used. If you particularly enjoy something, pay it forward and pass on your compliments to the cook.

When you are eating mindfully, you tend to eat and drink more slowly. You have time to pay attention to how your body is feeling. You notice when you are starting to feel full. When you eat mindfully, you often eat and drink substantially less than you would when you are eating mindlessly.

You may also notice that you are, in fact, not hungry at all, that you are eating because you are feeling stressed. You may realise that eating is not helping you feel less stressed. You may decide to use a different stress management strategy.

Eating mindfully enables you to appreciate what you are eating and drinking. You appreciate all the work that went into the production of the food. You realise how grateful you feel to everyone involved in providing you with this food: from the farmer who sowed the seed to the waiter who put the plate down before you

Eating mindfully means that you are eating and drinking slowly. It means that you will be eating and drinking substantially less than you would normally eat and drink during the same time period. Less food and drink means fewer calories. Paying attention to when you are starting to feel full will enable you to stop eating in time to avoid that overstuffed feeling.

If you would like to find out more about mindful eating, there are a few excellent books that you may want to read:

  • Savour: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink
  • Eating Mindfully by Susan Albers
  • Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays
  • Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall, Gary McAvoy, Gail Hudson
  • Meal by Meal: 365 Daily Meditations for Finding Balance Through Mindful Eating by Donald Altman
  • The Self-Compassion Diet by Jean Fain
  • Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Copyright © 2017 Margaretha Montagu All rights reserved.

Mpowering Quote

At its most essential, the apple you hold is a manifestation of the wonderful presence of life. It is interconnected with all that is. It contains the whole universe; it is an ambassador of the cosmos coming to nourish our existence. It feeds our body, and if we eat it mindfully, it also feeds our soul and recharges our spirit. Thich Nhat Hanh

Mpowering Meme


Mpowering Affirmation

Every day I am getting better and better at making healthy food choices. I am slowly and mindfully eating foods I love. I use all of my senses to truly look at, listen to, taste and smell each bite I take and I stop when I feel comfortably satisfied.

Mpowering Prompt

Eating mindfully will enable me to…

Living in the south of France Feature

My Neighbour’s Minder

Living mindfully in the south of France also means being mindful of the people around you. In the countryside, we still keep an eye on each other’s wellbeing.  In big cities, like Paris, this is now much less likely as was evident during the great canicule (heatwave) of 2012, when a large number of old people died in Paris of heat exhaustion without out anyone realising.

We have a neighbour who is well into his nineties and lives on the next ridge, just north of us. We keep an eye on him and he keeps an eye on our horses. He worked in the vineyards all his life, still does an hour or two most days. He used horses to help him plough between the vines, to gather the harvest and to transport the grapes to his cellars. Huge, heavy-duty horses with hooves the size of dinner plates. It is therefore not altogether surprising that he has a soft spot for our Friesian ladies and our Tinker stallion. They make their rounds twice a day past his house: early morning and late afternoon. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that he always has a couple of carrots or apples to spare. It is very helpful to us: his experienced eyes quickly notice if there is anything wrong with anyone.

So in return, we mind him. We help when help is needed. Which is not often. Take the time he drove his car into our ditch, about 200 meters from his house. As he said, he is only ninety. Mr Albret, who is 101, still drives too, so he can’t see why he can not drive his own battered old Citroen from his house to the shops. He did not ask anyone for help, he just got out of the car and started walking towards his house. I saw it happen as I had been working one of our horses in the sand school. Worried that he may be injured, I quickly got off and went to find my husband. I grabbed a bottle of Armagnac (for the shock). By the time we got to the car, our neighbour was already arriving on his tractor, with a determined look on his face. We each had a sip of the Armagnac, for the shock, as I said. In no time, he had pulled the car out of the ditch and drove his tractor home. My husband drove his car back to his house.

No one ever said another word about it.

Being mindful of others is not only about being mindful of their physical welfare but also of their psychological welfare. I did struggle with this one. I was worried that he would have an accident on the road, but I was also aware that if I made a fuss, his pride would suffer and if he lost his licence, he would also lose his independence. These days minding my neighbour also means taking him to the shops once a week.

Photos from the south of France: November

Autumn in the Vineyards

Autumn has finally arrived in the vineyards of the south of France. It has been an exceptionally mild year this year. We still have temperatures way above 15°C most days. I prefer autumn to spring because it tends to rain quite a bit here in the spring time. This is very good for the vines, but not so good for people with horses. Especially horses with feathers, as most of our fields turn into mud baths in March. So I much prefer autumn, with its stunning colours and its still-warm, dry days.

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News from the south of France

New Year, New You Mindfulness Meditation Workshop

This year, for the first time since 2012,  we are once again hosting our mindfulness and meditation workshop between Christmas and New Year. The workshop starts on the 26th of November and runs till the second of January. This is our own favourite workshop, even though it involves much more work that our summer workshops, because much that usually happens outside now has to happen inside. We love sharing this magical time with others, especially the “Vendanges Tardives” in Viella, a village about 12 km from here, where we used to live.

The “Vendanges Tardives” is the last grape harvest of the year, on the 31st of December. The grapes are picked after sunset, by the light of huge bonfires and burning torches. People from all over the world, a good thousand of them, attend the Pastorale, a pantomime tracing the history of the sweet wine, Pacherenc, produced from this harvest first. They then make their way to the vineyards either on foot or in horse-drawn carriages. The harvesting is done in no time and everyone then sits down to the traditional Old Year’s Eve Reveillon dinner. This often goes on until 5 o’clock in the morning, involves a lot of dancing and ends with a bowl of fragrant brown onion soup.

Our guests come back for this workshop year after year, so we suspect they enjoy starting the new year this way as much as we do. If you would like to join us during this year’s New Year New You Workshop, please send an e-mail to

Below is a short film about the Vendanges:

Mindfulness and Meditation in the south of France 

My new book, Mindfulness and Meditation in the south of France is due for publication on the 2nd of December. This book more or less wrote itself. I have been teaching stress management strategies to workshop participants for nearly ten years, so all I did was to organise what I knew into book form.

Mindfulness and Meditation in the south of France defines mindfulness and meditation and presents scientific proof of the effectiveness of both mindfulness and of meditation as stress management strategies. I introduce my readers to a variety of different meditation methods, to help each reader find the meditation practice that suits him/her best, especially if, like me, the reader has tried traditional sitting meditation and has found that it just doesn’t work for them. In the book, I explain

    • mmcover3dwalking meditation,
    • working meditation,
    • writing meditation,
    • music meditation,
    • visualisation meditation,
    • contemplative meditation
    • equine-guided meditation
    • as well as traditional sitting meditation.

To help my readers choose a meditation method, I provide them with a questionnaire that enables them to choose a meditation method that they will be able to incorporate seamlessly into their lives.

Each chapter starts with a letter written to me by a potential participant in one of the mindfulness meditation workshops we host here in France. Each letter reveals a specific problem, or set of problems, that readers will be able to identify with. The letter is followed by a detailed explanation of how to solve the writer’s problems using mindfulness and meditation.

The book isa available on Amazon.

Mpowering free Download of the month

Mindful Eating by Susan Albers, first chapter (available till 30/11/2016)

Mpowering Links

New on the Mpower Blog

P.S. If you can think of anyone else who might enjoy this e-zine, please forward this e-zine in pdf-form to them. Thank you so much!

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Mindful Eating Scientific Studies 

If you have any questions or there is anything I can help with, please e-mail me on
margarethamontagu -at-

Copyright © 2016 Margaretha Montagu
All rights reserved.


A Reformed MD, assisted by six talented Horses, hosts Workshops and writes Books in the south of France

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