Welcome to Conscious Eating. What follows will not be a new dietary ideology, super food, or miracle cleanse. Rather, we will explore a life long, lifestyle approach to food based on the Ayurvedic Paradigm of Health.
Before we dive into the main course, however, here’s a few observations on food and health throughout the ages. Even if you are unfamiliar with the quotes, you may recognize some the names:
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
"The first wealth is health."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Each patient carries his own doctor inside him."
"No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means."
“There is no magic bullet. You gotta eat healthy and live healthy to be healthy. End of story." Morgan Spurlock
“Eating comfort food isn't a reward — it's a punishment."
The Principle of Conscious Eating is about far more than WHAT we eat. Ultimately, our goal is to choose foods that support and sustain life, longevity and good health. In addition, what we eat should prevent us from experiencing illnesses and alleviate their symptoms, should they occur.
Are your current habits around food, which include not only WHAT, but WHEN and HOW you eat, working well for you. Can you say, without hesitation, that the your food habits are leading to abundant physical mental and emotional health?”
The word Conscious comes from the Latin word, scīre, meaning, “to know” or “to understand,” Conscious eating requires observation and attentiveness. We take on the role of observers or Ayurvedic detectives. This means paying attention to what, how and when you eat as well as your digestive experience.
According to Ayurveda, it’s not a question of whether any particular food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Rather, you learn to observe how YOUR body process what you eat. The answer falls, roughly, into two categories, positive and negative digestive experiences. During and after a positive digestive experience, you feel satisfied, grateful and full of energy. The negative kind leads to what is technically referred to as ‘unhappy tummy’. Here, you may experience any or all of the following: bloating, gas, burning feeling, belching, lethargy and sleepiness.
Pretty big difference, huh?
Ayurveda sees the digestive tract as the “Master system” of the body. Food builds the physical body, mind and emotions. Just as every person is unique, all foods are not the same. Thus, generic diets, food plans, or cleanses WILL NEVER work for everyone. At best, these can only be effective for SOME of the people SOME of the time. This brings us to a simple truth, the definition of Conscious Eating: Continually Creating and Refining a Sustainable Eating Plan that Works for YOU.
This is a rich and, at times, complex practice. However, I will attempt to provide some basic Ayurvedic Principles and Guidelines in this article and the series of articles to follow. Are you ready?
THE BIG PICTURE
Conscious Eating, ultimately, is about our relationship with ourselves, our diet, and our environment. This includes: where we get our food, how it’s grown, the manner in which it is prepared, the amount and timing of our meals, the people with whom we eat as well as our own behavioral and emotional patterns, that is, our beliefs and feelings about ourselves and whatever we eat.
To eat consciously, we need to work from the inside out. We begin by going beneath our habitual relationship with food and getting to know the energetics of food and digestion.
It is our own digestive experience that determines whether what we eat is supporting our body’s metabolic processes or disrupting them. We have both the power and responsibility to create wellness and vitality. First, we must learn to read the subtle signs our body sends us. This includes our emotional states, as our diet directly affects our mood.
Conscious eating is when the individuals intake of food is supportive to health, vitality and wellbeing. My goal is that this becomes a lifestyle, a sustainable way of eating and living. Its our day to day habits over a long period of time that becomes our normal. If our habits are conscious, and moderate most of the time, then we steer ourselves on the path of health, because we take responsibility for our actions. With personal responsibility comes empowerment, which in turn leads to better understanding and choices. Its an upward spiral.
1. Your health is your most valuable currency
Your body mind is your most valuable asset. If your are healthy and happy, then you can pursue your life’s purpose. However, if you are tired, low energy or frequently sick, then most of your time is focused on thinking, identifying with and the treatment of your particular malady. Your good health is your most valuable currency, everything starts with you!!!! Seems to me that investing in my health is the highest priority. Physical health is dependent on what you eat. Start by investing your time and attention on the foods that make your body come alive with vibrancy. Conscious eating is one of the three pillars that support health, the other two being sleep and energy.
2. Your Body/mind has to digest everything that comes in
Every day you consume food and drink in response to hunger and other external cues with little thought to how, your body converts it. When your metabolic process is working efficiently, your body should utilize 70-80% of all food eaten. However, when digestion is insufficient, the body is not able to break down or use the food properly. Faulty digestion is the beginnings of your body’s dis-ease.
Conscious eating is designed to educate and help you make connections with your digestive process.
3. Take responsibility for your consumption of food. This means the types and amounts of food consumed and the timing of meals. Im sure you have noticed from observing your family and friends that we all have different relationships and need of food. How much or little we eat, the frequency of meals, the types of foods etc. An important key too good health is to eat the appropriate amount and types of foods that maintain great health for you. Your body uses everything you put into it. Over time symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy and sluggishness become the norm and the immune system suffers.
4. The Burp is a practical exercise to rediscover your individual digestive capacity. Ayurvedic medicine states, that we should eat until we are not hungry. This is very different to eating until you are full.
“The stomach should be 1/2 filled by solid foods,
1/4 by water and 1/4 should be kept free for the movement of air”
The stomach naturally gives a burp when its three quarters 3/4 full.
Many of us have trained our stomachs to stretch by overeating or eating too frequently and this natural capacity has been overridden.
5. Eat real food
My greatest contribution to my health is that I love to prepare and cook my food.
I enjoy going to the farmers markets, searching for recipes and creating great food made with love.....nothing better. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said
‘the forces within us are the true healers and food is the true medicine’
Eat a varied diet and buy the highest quality food you can. Mix it up and try a few vegetarian meals every week. Minimize meat and fish consumption. Try not to eat anything that comes in a box. Avoid or reduce all processed food, white sugar and trans fats. Instead create a diet based on plants, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and fruits. Get to know the foods that grow in your area and whats in season. When you eat seasonal, fresh, locally grown food, you deepen your connection with nature and your environment. As a result your body becomes revitalized.
6. Use spices to enhance digestive and metabolic capacity
Ayurveda recognizes that the foundation of good health rests on a healthy functioning digestive tract. Herbs and spices are used to enhance and support correct functioning of digestion and metabolism. Here we are using spices as medicine to correct, improve and regulate digestive fire. Spices can be used either before a meal to ignite the fire and increase digestion or after to facilitate the processing or metabolism of food.
In the next article I will discuss the burp and the three types of metabolic processes.