Fried chicken with a side of mind­ful­ness

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You may not re­al­ize it, but work­ing out and eat­ing both pro­vide an ex­pe­ri­ence the hu­man soul re­quires as much as the body does. It’s called mind­ful­ness.

Let’s say you are an­grily com­plain­ing to your gym friends that last night’s Grindr hookup is in the sauna wear­ing the rain­bow thong he stole from you. Then, you throw your out­raged self on a bench and grip the bar­bell above your head. You lower and raise the weight with com­plete con­cen­tra­tion. The thong klep­to­ma­niac evap­o­rates from your mind. You breathe deeply and count. You are fully present.

That is mind­ful­ness. In recent years, the Bud­dhism-in­spired prac­tice has be­come a fa­vorite teach­ing tool of psy­chother­a­pists. If you can come fully present, and sus­tain the state, you’re not ruled by your anx­i­eties. That — plus a gush of happy hor­mones — is why ex­er­cise ranks more ef­fec­tive than an­tide­pres­sants in study af­ter study.

In our ob­ses­sive cul­ture, all food has be­come candy. Ap­ply­ing mind­ful­ness to eat­ing can change that. The di­rec­tions sound like Ta­ble Man­ners 101. Take a bite, put down your fork, chew at least a dozen times be­fore swal­low­ing, con­sciously not­ing tex­ture and taste — the way dif­fer­ent fla­vors in­ter­min­gle. You also want to pay at­ten­tion to scent (it re­quires breath­ing) and ap­pear­ance (it re­quires see­ing). Food pre­pared with re­spect by mind­ful chefs is in­her­ently beau­ti­ful, just like your stolen thong.

Mean­while, I sug­gest you bring mind­ful at­ten­tion to spicy fried chicken. Pop­eye’s is of­fer­ing its an­nual Ghost Pep­per Wings spe­cial now. You get six pieces for $4.99 that have been mar­i­nated in spices in­clud­ing the ghost pep­per, lit­er­ally the world’s hottest. I hit the store on Boule­vard, which is al­ways a good op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice mind­ful­ness. No­tice the filthy kitchen. No­tice that your or­der is prob­a­bly screwed up. No­tice that the cash reg­is­ter clerk is lit­er­ally dusted with flour as if he were about to be fried. No­tice that the wings are de­li­cious. You get crispi­ness, moist but not greasy meat and a mount­ing de­gree of heat with each bite.

Gus’s World Fa­mous Fried Chicken, a chain that serves Nashville-style spicy-hot chicken, has opened in Cham­blee (5486 Peachtree Road, 770-557-0839, gus­fried­ No­tice the brick wall, the checked table­cloths, the ran­domly dec­o­rated walls and the friendly staff. You will be tempted to com­pare the chicken to Pop­eye’s, but be mind­ful and just en­joy its de­li­cious, some­what thin-crusted spici­ness. No­tice the higher-than-av­er­age prices that get you a Sty­ro­foam plate and plas­tic forks. No­tice the neigh­bor­hood. It’s be­come a vil­lage full of tempt­ing restau­rants, for real.

I also paid my first visit to Dish, a Korean bistro ad­ja­cent to the al­ways-mobbed

Food Ter­mi­nal (5000 Bu­ford High­way, 470299-8886).

You will bring mind­ful at­ten­tion to the play­ful sym­me­try of Dish’s bright din­ing room and the pa­rade of gor­geous, com­plex dishes. I’ll write more about Dish soon, but it feels right to men­tion their fried chicken. It’s su­perla­tively crispy and mildly sea­soned, but ac­com­pa­nied by a hot sauce tem­pered by a strong shot of sweet­ness. You will no­tice, read­ing this, that you should get your­self the hell there ASAP.

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­

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